Amongst all of the negative statistics coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent survey carried out by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has revealed more than 1 million smokers have quit during the pandemic.
This has also been backed up by the University College London (UCL). The UCL has reported that more smokers have quit this year than any previous year since they started keeping a record.
Interestingly, around half of those who quit said the pandemic influenced their decision. For the majority of people, it’s not known exactly why. The government did issue advice saying smokers are at higher risk of more severe COVID symptoms, so that’s likely to have played a part.
There’s also the anecdotal effect of smokers who have contracted the virus experiencing serious health scares.
Are smokers more at risk during the pandemic?
Researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and King’s College London have developed an app to track COVID symptoms.
So far, they have collected data from more than 2.4 million participants in the UK. Analysing this data, they can see that from patients with a positive COVID-19 test, those who smoke are more than twice as likely to need hospital care.
This ties up with information from a study carried out in the U.S. showing that smokers there are 1.8 times more likely to die than a non-smoker when hospitalised with symptoms.
Conversely, there have also been studies carried out globally that suggest smoking may also help protect against coronavirus.
It’s thought the reason for these results is that nicotine, the stimulant, and highly addictive compound in cigarettes, might be blocking receptors in the body that the virus uses to get into a patient’s cells.
Even if smoking did block or help reduce the symptoms of COVID, the health risks associated with smoking still outweigh any of these potential “benefits”.
While these stats do seem to start revealing more about coronavirus, it’s important to remember that it’s early days and the sample size of patients is still small.
In regard to the health risks associated with smoking, it’s also important to pay attention to the Public Health England’s guidelines on the topic:
“There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections.
“Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing your ability to fight infection.”