Are smokers more at risk of contracting coronavirus? Expert advice revealed

Charlie Duffield
Smokers are 14 times more at risk from coronavirus

As the fight against coronavirus continues, with the UK death toll surpassing 900 people for the first time and the global death toll passing 1.5million, the world's 1.3 billion smokers are being asked to quit.

There are also fears that the UK's 11 million ex-smokers are in danger of relapsing, due to the stress and anxiety of the global health pandemic, so cigarette companies are being asked to consider reducing their tobacco production.

But is there any evidence that smokers are at greater risk of contracting the virus?

Here's what the experts have said.


Are smokers more at risk of catching coronavirus?

Officials have said smokers with coronavirus are 14 times more likely to develop severe symptoms, as the virus attacks the respiratory system, with both smoking and passive smoking weakening lungs.

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England (PHE), said: "In light of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to stop smoking. Not only for your own health but to protect those around you. It will also help alleviate the huge pressures on the NHS."

PHE also warned that those exposed to second hand smoke, including children, are also being put at increased risk.

According to a survey from Wuhan, China, published in the Chinese Medical Journal, where the outbreak began, smokers who contracted coronavirus were 14 times more likely to develop a severe form of the disease.

The study also found age, maximum body temperature on admission and respiratory failure were contributory factors.

PHE also warned smokers that the virus has easier access into a person's body via the act of smoking, as the smoker repeatedly raises their hand to their mouth.

Likewise, experts from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease have said they are "deeply concerned" about coronavirus' impact on the world's 1.3 billion smokers - particularly those in poorer countries whose healthcare systems are already overburdened.

PHE are advising people to use the smokefree app to quit (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images) (AFP/Getty Images)

Gan Quan, a public health specialist and director of the union, said: "The best thing the tobacco industry can do to fight COVID-19 is to immediately stop producing, marketing and selling tobacco."

He added that governments worldwide have a "moral imperative" to advise smokers to quit, and the World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have said that smokers can expose people to the serious complications of coronavirus.

It's well known that smoking tobacco can damage the lungs and airways, causing a range of severe respiratory problems, whereas quitting has short, medium and long-term health benefits.

Nevertheless, the warnings emerge as it's expected more people will turn to smoking due to an increase in stress during the crisis.

Dr. Pooja Patwardhan, GP and Medical Director of the Centre for Health Research and Education (CHRE), estimated that another 6 million current UK smokers – more than 14% of adults in the country – and hundreds of millions worldwide could now turn to smoking more cigarettes.

PHE is advising smokers to use the ‘smokefree app’ for advice and support on quitting.

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