Mixed signals on smoking and COVID-19

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.

From the New York Daily Post:

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

From a USA Today article:

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.

Here is a UC San Francisco study suggesting that smoking nearly doubles the rate of COVID-19 progression:

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.

From NBC News:

The research is new, but evidence suggests smoking may dramatically worsen COVID-19.

Now, almost two months later, researchers are still only beginning to investigate the link between vaping and serious complications from COVID-19. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there appears to be an association, and increasing evidence, of the dangers. Volkow strongly advises people who are vaping to stop. Back in March, the American Lung Association’s chief medical officer, Dr. Albert Rizzo, and the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation also issued warnings.

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.