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COVID Susceptibility

Tobacco controllers have been trying to claim smoking and vaping increased the chance of developing COVID-19 symptoms – but is this really the case?

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Tobacco controllers have been trying to claim smoking and vaping increased the chance of developing COVID-19 symptoms – but is this really the case? Not according to some research coming out of France.

“As the pandemic of COVID-19, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is still under progression, the identification of prognostic factors is a global challenge,” researchers at the Hôpitaux de Paris and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie say.

They point out that links between smoking and the development of more severe symptoms “remains controversial”. And if this is true for tobacco use then it applies even more so for vaping.

“No firm conclusions can be drawn from the available COVID-19 studies because main potential confounders, like age and sex, were not taken into account. Additionally, these studies included mostly hospitalized patients, and the low rate of current smokers may be related to high rate of patients with comorbidities (smokers having been advised to quit) and thus to COVID-19 severity. This could therefore introduce a confusion bias.”

The authors add: “To allow for a valid comparison with the general population, smoking rates used as a reference should have been evaluated at a time as close as possible to the time of COVID pandemic and the same definitions of current smokers should be used for both COVID-19 and general populations, which was not clear in the previous studies.”

“The last available study of the Chinese general population in 2015 reported rates of current smokers of 52% for men and 2.5 % for women. Very recently, the US Center of Disease Control reported an analysis of current smoker rate among US COVID-19 patients which was found to be 1.3% for the whole population of COVID-19 patients, 1% for outpatients, 2% for patients, not hospitalized in an ICU, and 1% in intensive care unit (ICU)-admitted patients. However, the level of missing smoking status was very high and no comparison with the general population was performed.”

It doesn’t constitute a scientific appraisal of the situation, but the number of POTV forum members currently reporting COVID symptoms is exceptionally low.

The authors conclude: “Our cross sectional study in both COVID-19 out- and inpatients strongly suggests that current smokers have a very much lower probability of developing symptomatic or severe SARS-CoV-2 infection as compared to the general population.”

“Because this is a cross-sectional study, we cannot confirm the causality of this association. We cannot also identify which of the many compounds of tobacco exerts the protective effect of smoking on COVID-19. There are however, sufficient scientific data to suggest that smoking protection is likely to be mediated by nicotine.”

If this link to nicotine is true, it would explain why so few vapers on the POTV forum appear to be suffering during the pandemic. But, before anybody gets carried away, the authors add: “Our findings should be interpreted cautiously and we are aware of its limitations”.


  • “Low incidence of daily active tobacco smoking in patients with symptomatic COVID-19” by Miyara, Tubach, POURCHER, Morelot-Panzini, Pernet, Haroche, Lebbah, Morawiec, Gorochov, Caumes, Hausfater, COMBES, Similowski, and Amoura – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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