A study from the University of California, San Francisco looked at 8,400 young people and suggested that smoking is a risk for complications from the virus, along with diabetes, asthma, obesity and other health conditions.
The numbers get pretty convoluted, but a UC San Francisco article sums it up. Essentially, it says that among nonsmokers, about 16 percent of young people are susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19. In the overall group which includes smokers, that number roughly doubles to 31.5 percent.
“Recent evidence indicates that smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased illness severity, ICU admission or death,” said Dr. Sally Adams of US San Francisco. “Smoking may have significant effects in young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases.”
“The risk of being medically vulnerable to severe disease is halved when smokers are removed from the sample,” said senior author Charles Irwin Jr., MD, of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. “Efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use among young adults would likely lower their vulnerability to severe disease.”
UC San Francisco is a major research center into tobacco studies.
This study contradicts an earlier study that seemed to suggest that nicotine somehow protected people’s lungs from COVID-19. That study was done very early during the pandemic and I was pretty skeptical of it from the get go.
An interesting story out of the UK: A study done by the University College London showed that more people in the UK quit in 2020 than at any time since 2007. That’s credited to concerns about smokers being more vulnerable to complications from the COVID-19 virus.
A team at University College London has been asking 1,000 people a month in England about their smoking habits since 2007 as part of the Smoking Toolkit Study.
In the year to June 2020, 7.6% of smokers taking part in the survey quit – almost a third higher than the average and the highest proportion since the survey began more than a decade ago.
On average, 5.9% of surveyed smokers quit per year since 2007.
Data isn’t complete and plenty of studies are going to be done on the connection between smoking and COVID-19 mortality. However, a lot of signs sure point to smokers doing worse responding to COVID-19 than nonsmokers.
From the BBC article:
Data from the Zoe Covid Symptom Tracker app suggested smokers were 14% more likely than non-smokers to develop the three “classic” symptoms of coronavirus infection – fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath.
The app, created by researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals and King’s College London, analysed data from more than 2.4 million UK participants.
I live in a state in which masks are mandated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The other day I went to the grocery store, and I estimated that at least 20 people in the store were not wearing masks. I noticed two distinct groups refusing to wear masks — people under 35 and women of all ages.
Interestingly enough, I’d say every single guy in the store over the age of 40 was wearing a mask. Not sure I saw one older guy without one. I saw a few older women not wearing masks.
Anyway, it’s been interesting to see and read the rhetoric against wearing masks and how much the rhetoric sounds EXACTLY like something I’ve heard before.
Others have pointed out that the debate over wearing masks is a lot like the debates a couple of decades ago over seatbelt laws.
Massachusetts radio personality Jerry Williams transformed his talk show into a crusade against seat belts, gathering 45,000 signatures in three months. He managed to get a referendum on the ballot to repeal the state’s new belt law.
“We don’t feel we should be forced to buckle up and have a police officer sent in by the state to make sure we’re buckled up,” Williams told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1986.
“There was a libertarian streak among resistors,” Nader told Business Insider. “They took the stance that ‘you’re not going to tie the American people up in seat belts.'”
A similar ideology seems to be fueling pushback against face covering during the pandemic.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio was forced to rescind his face-mask order, he told ABC News, when he realized Ohioans “were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
In California, an anti-lockdown protester held a sign comparing wearing masks to slavery, Newsweek reported.
Nader says he believes most modern-day mask slackers are fueled by obstinance, not a political agenda.
Nader at the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, in 2015. Bradley E. Clift for The Washington Post via Getty Images
“It’s just an ornery personality trait by some people,” he said. “They’re not community people.”
There you go. They’re not community people. They don’t see themselves as a part of society, they see themselves as rugged individualists, fighting against the “state” or whatever.
I will fully admit that I was resistant to wearing a seatbelt until probably about the mid-90s. I even walked away from two rollover wrecks without wearing a seatbelt in either one of them. I finally caved after I got a couple of seatbelt tickets, and frankly it was no big deal and it was stupid of me to resist the idea.
The big argument against seatbelt laws is personal liberty. The big argument against it is that they save lives. As far as being part of a community, seatbelt laws are shown to reduce fatalities and major injuries, which is turn reduces insurance rates. So, we all save when everyone is wearing a seatbelt.
For several years from about 2005-2010, I can’t tell you how many arguments I had with idiots and Libertarians (sorry, really kind of the same thing) over “personal liberty” and smoking bans. While some people have pointed out the similarity of the masking debate with seatbelts, I personally am immediately reminded of the same idiotic arguments against restaurant and bar smoking bans 10 to 15 years ago.
I banged my head, and banged my head and banged my head against the brick walls those people threw up over smoking bans I don’t know how many times.
Here’s where the “personal liberty” argument failed with smoking. A person’s personal liberty ends where it affects another person. It’s not only obnoxious and rude to inflict your secondhand smoke on others, it’s also been shown that it affects people’s health, especially people who are forced to work in a smoky environment. Your personal liberty ends as soon as that smoke comes out of your mouth.
Same thing with masking. Masking provides some protection for the mask-wearer, but they provide even more protection to others from the person wearing the mask. Simply put, they really do stop the spread of COVID-19.
Unlike smoking bans, I don’t totally get the resistance to wearing a mask. I really don’t. It just feels like something out of “Idiocracy.” It’s people taking the concept of “personal liberty” the extreme that they abandon all common sense. It reminds me of a Bors cartoon in which a woman makes fun of Donald Trump for putting ketchup on his burnt steak, so some Trump supporter has to burn a steak to the point where he has to cut it with a chainsaw and then put ketchup on it to “own the libs!” Not wearing a mask is somehow “showing the libs?” Showing them what? That you really don’t give a damn about others?
At least with the people fighting smoking bans, I could see some of their logic — that something was being taken away from them that they had always had: The ability to smoke while sitting at the bar. Nothing is being taken away from anyone by asking people to wear a damn mask when you go to the store.
Wear a damn mask. I tell people: “You want the economy to reopen, you want to be able to go to the bar or the restaurant? Then wear a mask, or else they’re going to forced to close everything down again.”
I haven’t done an update for a while. I’ve been pretty busy, then like most people, my life has been upended by the effects of the COVID-19 virus and blogging took a backseat.
Then, in late April, our blog was hacked. By someone in China using our blog to sell guitars. Man, this blog has been through the ringer. I shut the first one down over doxxing, the second one got banned by WordPress, the third one I had to kill because the hosting company was terrible. And now this one got hacked.
So, we got the blog fixed and I decided an update was long overdue, especially with lung health being front and centre in world news the past few weeks. So here goes. Good to be back!:
Mixed signals on smoking and COVID-19
I was fairly shocked to see a story out of France that according to a study, somehow smoking and or nicotine was shown to protect people against the COVID-19 virus. That just doesn’t make any sense. One of the highest-risk groups out there for COVID-19 are people with COPD.
A French study suggests that smokers could be less at risk of catching the coronavirus — and researchers now want to test nicotine patches on patients and health care workers.
Despite their findings, the researchers at a major Paris hospital insisted they are not encouraging folks to take up smoking, which carries severe health risks — including if a smoker does become infected with COVID-19.
Instead, they are probing whether the nicotine in cigarettes specifically plays a part in stopping smokers from catching the illness — and therefore could help protect patients and frontline health workers.
Accounting for age and sex, the researchers found that the number of smokers among their patients was much lower than that in the general French population.
“Our cross-sectional study strongly suggests that those who smoke every day are much less likely to develop a symptomatic or severe infection with Sars-CoV-2 compared with the general population,” the researchers wrote.
That’s hard for me to believe, and sure enough other scientists are expressing their doubts about this study. There’s definitely contradictory evidence.
That study caused a huge rush in France and elsewhere on nicotine products such as gum and patches.
Other studies suggest smokers, even those without COPD or lung cancer, fare worse against COVID-19
In an overview by the National Center for Biotechnology Information of five different studies suggesting that nicotine may aid in severe COVID-19 cases, it was found that “smoking is most likely associated with the negative progression and adverse outcomes of COVID-19.”
On April 21, Bloomberg News reported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revised its stance on COVID-19 and nicotine, saying nicotine could also increase the chances of catching the coronavirus. It was reported earlier in the month that smokers could have worse outcomes from the virus.
Smoking significantly worsens COVID-19, according to a new analysis by UC San Francisco of the association between smoking and progression of the infectious disease.
In a meta-analysis of studies that included 11,590 COVID patients, researchers found that among people with the virus, the risk of disease progression in those who currently smoke or previously smoked was nearly double that of non-smokers. They also found that when the disease worsens, current or former smokers had more acute or critical conditions or death. Overall, smoking was associated with almost a doubling of the risk of disease progressing.
That is almost completely contradictory from the French study.
Yet another study shows a link between serious complications from COVID-19 and smoking AND vaping.
Researchers are still only beginning to investigate the link between vaping and serious complications from COVID-19.
It’s not just a domestic suggestion. The World Health Organization also recently released information from China, where the coronavirus originated, showing that people who have cardiovascular and respiratory conditions caused by smoking or water pipes are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. In April, NIDA announced that SARS-Cov-2 — the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 —could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke
So, that French study while interesting appears at the moment to probably be some kind of outlier and that at the very least, the jury is definitely out on the link between smoking and COVID-19 complications.