Smokers and walkers are more likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19 or die from the disease, a new study suggests.
Individuals who reported using tobacco products prior to hospitalization were 39% more likely to receive mechanical ventilation than nonsmokers.
Moreover, they were 45% more likely to die.
Although smoking and vaping are known to damage the lungs and immune system, making people more susceptible to COVID-19 and less likely to fight the disease, information on the relationship between smoking and the severity of COVID-19 is limited.
“Like everyone else, we’re very concerned about COVID and trying to understand what are the important risk factors that predispose people to severe outcomes,” said first author Dr. Aruni Bhatangar, professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville, told ABC News. “And we were concerned about whether tobacco use affects the severity of COVID and its outcomes.”
He added, “There’s been a lot of work in the district with lawsuits and counterclaims, a lot of observation. Some say smoking is bad, some say it’s not that bad. So we thought we really needed a large amount of food. , comprehensive research to solve the problem”.
For the study, published in the scientific journal PLOS One, the team looked at data from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry, which included more than 4,000 people over the age of 40 who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between January 2020 and March 2021.
Individuals were classified as smokers if they reported using traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes. However, the study did not assess whether there was a difference in risk levels between vapers and smokers.
Researchers from the Kentucky AHA Center for Tobacco Control and the University of Louisville found that smoking or vaping was associated with higher rates of COVID-19 death and hospitalization, regardless of patients’ age, sex, race/ethnicity, or medical history.
According to Bhatangar, the risk assessment is a bit surprising and even “higher than we thought”.
However, some subgroups had a higher risk of death from COVID-19 than others.
Smokers between the ages of 18 and 59 died more from the disease than those 60 and older, despite the fact that COVID tends to affect older people.
“It was a surprising finding, and we thought about that part a little bit, maybe because the basal mortality rate at this age is so low that the risk factors are more noticeable than the factors. [in] People in their 60s,” Bhatangar said.
Additionally, white smokers had a higher risk of COVID death than black and Hispanic patients, groups disproportionately affected by the virus and its complications. However, Hispanic patients may be put on ventilators.
Smoking is associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease, as well as a higher risk of death in smokers who received anticoagulants prior to hospitalization.
The team said its study had some limitations, including a lack of smoking history for the participants and no information on how many cigarettes or other tobacco products the patients used per day or for how many years.
For future research, Bhatangar said he would be interested in examining how smoking affects vaccine results, whether smoking increases the risk of infection, the difference between current smokers and former smokers, and a larger vaping group of the same.
“The bottom line is, if you’re a smoker, you’re at higher risk. [then] The general advice is always to quit smoking completely,” he said. “But the most important thing … is to see doctors and hospitals, take medical histories. [into account] because smokers are more likely to develop severe illness and require more aggressive medical care because they are more likely to turn to ventilators.