Smoking was associated with not only a greater risk of disease, but also an increased risk of severe COVID-19.
Smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and a greater risk of hospitalization compared with non-smokers, according to a study published in Thorax.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.87 million deaths and there have been over 85.9 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Certain factors, such as age and preexisting health conditions, put some populations at a greater risk of a severe case of the virus.
Data were collected using the ZOE COVID Symptom Study App between March 24, 2020, and April 2020. Of the participants, 11% were smokers, which is lower than the proportion of smokers in the overall population of the United Kingdom at 14.7%.
The study found that smokers were more than 14% more likely to develop the triad of symptoms that suggest a COVID-19 diagnosis: fever, persistent cough, and shortness of breath. Although more than one-third of smokers reported not feeling physically well during the study period, current smokers were also more likely to have a higher symptom burden than non-smokers.
Additionally, smokers were 29% more likely to report more than 5 symptoms associated with COVID-19 and 50% more likely to report more than 10, according to the study. A greater number of symptoms suggest a more severe virus, according to the study. Smokers who tested positive for COVID-19 were also more than twice as likely to be hospitalized than patients who do not smoke.
"As rates of COVID-19 continue to rise and the NHS edges towards capacity, it's important to do all we can to reduce its effects and find ways to reduce hospital admissions. Our analysis shows that smoking increases a person's likelihood to attend hospitals, so stopping smoking is one of the things we can do to reduce the health consequences of the disease," said lead researcher Claire Steves, PhD, consultant physician and Reader at King’s College London in a press release.
According to investigators, smoking cessation should be included as an element to address COVID-19. Reduction in smoking rates could also reduce health systems from other smoking-related conditions that lead to hospitalization.
Smoking associated with increased risk of COVID-19 symptoms [News Release] January 6, 2021; London, UK. Accessed January 7, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/kcl-saw010621.php.