Those who are older or have underlying medical conditions are most susceptible to disease, according to CDC
15 March 2020
The number of cases of coronavirus has nearly reached 200,000 around the globe, yet there is still a significant amount unknown about the Covid-19 virus.
For example, scientists have not yet confirmed whether individuals who have contracted the virus then become immune to it, or whether it is possible to become reinfected.
The same is also true regarding whether lifestyle choices such as smoking or vaping increase the risk of getting coronavirus, a claim recently stated by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Last week, de Blasio announced during a press conference regarding the coronavirus outbreak that smoking or vaping makes people “more vulnerable” to suffering severe illness once infected by Covid-19, according to Reuters.
“If you are a smoker or a vaper that does make you more vulnerable,” de Blasio said. “If you are a smoker or a vaper this is a very good time to stop that habit and we will help you.”
This is what you need to know about the link between smoking or vaping and coronavirus.
Does smoking cigarettes or vaping increase your chances of developing coronavirus and make it harder to recover?
According to Dr Michael Matthay, the associate director of critical care medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), the answer is yes – although it is not currently known to what extent.
“Based on prior studies with other pulmonary infections, both bacterial and viral, it is highly likely that cigarette smoking and vaping will increase the risk of coronavirus pneumonia and increase its severity, though we don’t know to what extent,” he said, according to SFGate.
The belief is based on previous studies that have found nicotine inhaled into the lungs of mice can delay the clearance of the influenza virus.
Experts have also pointed to a 2019 study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which found that 47.6 per cent of men in China smoke, to show a possible link between smoking and coronavirus – after China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more men were contracting and dying from coronavirus than women.
“Among Chinese patients diagnosed with Covid-19 associated pneumonia, the odds of disease progression (including to death) were 14 times higher among people with a history of smoking compared to those who did not smoke. This was the strongest risk factor among those examined,” the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education said.
However, another possible explanation could be that men in China may be more likely to travel, according to Stat News.
While it is not confirmed what link, if any, exists between smoking and coronavirus, experts have confirmed that individuals who are older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or respiratory issues are at a higher risk of developing serious complications as a result of the virus.
“It is therefore reasonable to be concerned that compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking history, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could put people at risk for serious complications of Covid-19,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) states.
The organisation also adds that those who vape may also be at risk, as studies have found that vaping can harm lung health.
“Whether it can lead to COPD is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection,” the NIH says, adding that one study found that influenza virus-infected mice exposed to these aerosols were found to have enhanced tissue damage and inflammation.