How To Prevent Coronavirus? Start Smoking

Great find by Joe L:

…new study … claims that of the 1099 Chinese people who contracted 2019-nCoV which were studied, 85.4% (927 people) were never-smokers, while only 12.6% (137 people) were current smokers and only 1.9% (21 people) were ex-smokers.

Here’s a link to the pdf study. And here’s part of Table 1 from the study (click to enlarge):

According to the WHO:

More than half of all adult men in China are regular smokers.

According to the World Bank, the figure is 48%. It’s really only in the West that the figure is down around 15%. Eastern Europeans and Russians are heavy smokers. Seems the Chinese are too.

What might explain the comparative immunity of smokers? My first suggestion was that smokers in China who are already being forced to smoke outside are in effect being quarantined. But they’ll still be spending a lot of time with non-smokers, so it’s only a partial quarantine.

A better explanation might be that smokers have more mucus in their lungs than non-smokers, and it’s harder for a virus to get through this than with the thinner layers in non-smokers’ lungs.

The same may have been true during the Plague of 1665:

In 1665, London was rocked by an outbreak of bubonic plague. It was believed that the disease was spread by bad smells and invisible ‘miasmas’, so people used smoke to protect themselves. Tobacco was especially recommended to ward off the plague, and those tasked with disposing of the dead smoked a clay pipe to keep the disease at bay.

The bubonic plague was not a virus, but a bacterium – Yersinia pestis -, but if infection with the Plague entailed inhaling the bacteria, the thicker mucus in smokers’ lungs might well have been equally difficult for bacteria to penetrate.

Whatever the explanation, it rather looks as if smokers are afforded greater protection against the new coronavirus than non-smokers. Furthermore, when they do catch the virus, it seems that smokers generally get non=severe cases.

In which case, shouldn’t medical advice about preventing coronavirus infection include Start Smoking?

Perhaps it could be argued that the results of one study are insufficient to merit such advice. But if a whole set of studies show that smokers are genuinely be protected from coronavirus, shouldn’t that be the advice?

Using the above study’s figures, how much more likely are non-smokers to get 2019-nCoV than smokers?

Assuming that there is a population N1 (e.g. city of Wuhan) that are half smokers and half non-smokers, and that these supply patients to an infected subpopulation N2 (e.g. 1099 people), in which 85% are non-smokers and 15% are smokers, then the probability Pn of a non-smoker becoming infected is (0.85.N2)/(0.5.N1) , and the probability Ps of a smoker becoming infected is (0.15.N2)/(0.5.N1). And so non-smokers are Pn/Ps times more likely to become infected than smokers. Pn/Ps = 0.85/0.15 =  5.66.

I’ve lumped in smokers with ex-smokers. Using the exact figures of 85.4% for Pn and 14.6% for Ps, Pn/Ps = 5.85

So non-smokers are nearly 6 times more likely than smokers and ex-smokers to become infected.

See also Who’s afraid of coronavirus? Not-smokers/.

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55 Responses to How To Prevent Coronavirus? Start Smoking

  1. Frank and Joe L, THANK you for focusing on this!
    Actually, I’ve been trying to always mention the increased risk of smoke-banned venues over smoking ones because of the air recirculation in the banned ones with no one being aware of it. I suggest that nonsmokers who might normally avoid the smoking pub in favor of the nonsmoking one should switch for the duration, and I point out the extreme danger posed by smoke-banned airplanes and airports in terms of disease spread.

    However, it occurred to me while reading this current report, that there’s at least an almost CERTAIN (though very small) “protection effect” involved with smoking quite aside from circulation! It is highly unlikely that the Coronavirus can survive temperatures of 600 to 900 degree Celsius. So smokers know that while they are actively smoking they are breathing at least a dozen or so mouthfuls of pure, clean, Corona-free Air! Plus, just as I’ve noted to nonsmokers, they’d be breathing nice innocent firsthand smoke instead of that “more dangerous” secondhand smoke, right?

    As noted, it would be a very minor factor, but it’s certainly real! Add in the FAR better ventilation/filtration setups for any smoking-allowed social venue today and I wouldn’t be at ALL surprised to see the “Chinese Smoker Paradox” repeated around the world! Don’t forget the 1994 Consumer Reports Cover Story on how “Airplane Air” quality took a huge nosedive in the years following the US-mandated smoking bans on all national and international flights that would touch down in US-owned territory. Aeroflot protested that they were Russian territory and had the right to make their own laws and rules and the U.S. just laughed at them and told them if they didn’t bend over and take it where we planted it, they could just forget about ever landing in the good ol’ US of A again. Sadly, the Russians and Aeroflot bent over and took it quietly.

    MJM, who believes there MAY be a few airlines in Japan or China that still allow smoking. It would be GREAT to get a study done on them during all this, wouldn’t it?

    • Tino Bridgeman says:

      I don’t like poking a hole in your theory, but many cigarettes these days are designed with little holes in the filter which you’d have to cover with your mouth – I don’t know how much of an effect it has, but it should unfortunately factor in nonetheless.

      As to China and inflight smoking, apparently, this isn’t a thing anymore:

      Japan, to my knowledge, has taken similar measures, although not government-mandated afaik. Korea certainly has.

      Also, as I can confirm from personal experience, China doesn’t allow you to have lighters about your person on any flight. They check rather thoroughly at security, and get quite nasty when they find one (didn’t know and the lady at security in Shanghai where I got my connection to Japan last year was rather cross with me – I wonder whatever happened to that family I met that got through with far more lighters than legally allowed because security in Germany just didn’t bother). In smoking areas at airports, they have locked-in lighters for you to light up, quite the ridiculous design.

      Something, however, which I’d find interesting is aboard the cruise ships with Corona Virus cases currently under quarantine. It isn’t like there’s a lot stopping anyone from smoking within the cabin; I wonder a) how many people smoke, b) how many people have (continued and sufficient) access to cigarettes, and c) how incidence cases compare among passengers respectively. I reckon there is a better chance at getting data, if ever that was investigated.

      • Good point about the air holes, although the effect would still be active — just somewhat diluted! The cruise ship situation could indeed be an important “natural laboratory” for testing theories about what factors affect spreading of airborne disease. Imagine if a ship had two nightclubs with one being totally smoke-banned but the other being completely Free-Choice and with an accompanying high level of ventilation.

        If my theory is correct (not so much the “air-purification through smoking”, but rather the degree of risk increase due to smoke-bans with lowered ventilation) we would see a greater number of cases among those passengers who religiously attended the banned nightclub when compared to those who hung out only at the smoking nightclub.

        Good luck trying to get a research grant to study such an effect though. Here in the US the tobacco companies were forced to shut down their smoking & health research efforts by the 1999 “Master Settlement Agreement,” and I’d imagine that even over in the UK and Europe, researchers getting tobacco grants are probably labeled as pariahs by the main university community.

        – MJM, pariah, prophet, or poodle? Your pick.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    So smokers know that while they are actively smoking they are breathing at least a dozen or so mouthfuls of pure, clean, Corona-free Air!

    As the microbiologist Legiron has often said: tobacco smoke is the purest air you can breathe.

  3. Rose says:

    This is a study Nightlight posted some years ago, perhaps Brigitte would see what she makes of it.

    Normal alveolar epithelial lining fluid contains high levels of glutathione.

    “The epithelial cells on the alveolar surface of the human lower respiratory tract are vulnerable to toxic oxidants derived from inhaled pollutants or inflammatory cells. Although these lung cells have intracellular antioxidants, these defenses may be insufficient to protect the epithelial surface against oxidants present at the alveolar surface
    “The total glutathione (the reduced form GSH and the disulfide GSSG) concentration of normal ELF was 140-fold higher than that in plasma of the same individuals, and 96% of the glutathione in ELF was in the reduced form.

    Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers had 80% higher levels of ELF total glutathione, 98% of which was in the reduced form.”

    Studies of cultured lung epithelial cells and fibroblasts demonstrated that these concentrations of reduced glutathione were sufficient to protect these cells against the burden of H2O2 in the range released by alveolar macrophages removed from the lower respiratory tract of nonsmokers and smokers, respectively, suggesting that the glutathione present in the alveolar ELF of normal individuals likely contributes to the protective screen against oxidants in the extracellular milieu of the lower respiratory tract.”

    I found this today.

    Inhibition of influenza infection by glutathione.

    “In BALB/c mice, inclusion of GSH in the drinking water decreased viral titer in both lung and trachea homogenates 4 d after intranasal inoculation with a mouse-adapted influenza strain A/X-31. Together, the data suggest that the thiol antioxidant GSH has an anti-influenza activity in vitro and in vivo. Oxidative stress or other conditions that deplete GSH in the epithelium of the oral, nasal, and upper airway may, therefore, enhance susceptibility to influenza infection.”

    • beobrigitte says:

      Rose, brilliant find! Again, Thank you!!!
      Added to my more urgent list to find out if this has been further investigated recently.
      Infection by RNA virus induces oxidative stress in host cells. Accumulating evidence suggests that cellular redox status plays an important role in regulating viral replication and infectivity.

    • Thanks Rose! I echo beobrigitte’s praise!

  4. smokingscot says:

    Just checked the share price of the tobacco majors. JTI, BAT and even PMI all went up. However the prize goes to Imperial that put on 1.7% in 24 hours.

    Shares sell at almost £19, so it’s most likely institutional investors caused it.

    I’ll keep an eye on JTI because they’re big in Asia.

  5. Dirk says:

    Beobrigitte, So far no cases detected. I live in Indonesia (already 36 years here uninteruptedly, I am a permanent resident)
    Se also

  6. If anyone else sees any further mentions of this inverse smoking/virus-infection effect anywhere PLEASE make a note of it and get it back here to Frank’s blog. This is the sort of information that would be treated as pornographic heresy by Antismokers and I’m amazed the table showing that data was even allowed to be published! Heh, maybe somebody somewhere had the common sense to realize that a new worldwide plague might just POSSIBLY be worse than a bit of extra smoking.

    – MJM, who actually thinks it more likely that the inverse effect was so TOTALLY against their “religion” that a lot of researchers/editors/whatever simply didn’t “see” what the data in front of them was showing.

  7. kin_free says:

    This could be relevant;

    Scroll down to blog entry “Smoking – a simple way to prevent or cure swine flu”

    • Frank Davis says:

      From your link

      It is believed that ‘cytokine storms’ are one of the characteristics of swine flu where the vagus nerve fails to react correctly to the infection. Nicotine (and smoking) is thought to stimulate the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway and ‘kick start’ the vagus nerve into action, preventing an excessive immune response.

      Does coronavirus cause cytokine storms? Yes.

      THE LANCET’s recent publication entitled “Clinical features of patients infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”, described the correlation of cytokine storm (high levels of circulating inflammatory cytokines) and the severity of illness in patients infected with the 2019-nCoV (2019 Novel Coronavirus).

      I think that’s a very good explanation why smokers tend to get mild versions of the nCoV infection: they don’t experience cytokine storms. It doesn’t seem to explain why they get infected so much less than non-smokers.

    • beobrigitte says:

      Kin_free, I’m sorry the link here:
      Art Ayers article on ‘Suite 101’ explains the smoking/swine flu/cytokine storms/ vagus nerve connections;
      no longer exists.

      This site can’t be reached’s server IP address could not be found.


      (Screen shot available)

      I would have loved to read this article! Was it similar to this?
      Results: Pretreatment with nicotine strongly alleviated severity of SAP-associated lung injury through attenuating serum amylase, lipase, and interleukin 6 levels; pancreas and lung pathological injury; lung myeloperoxidase activity; lung tumor necrosis factor-α; and high-mobility group box 1 expression. Inversely, vagotomy pretreatment resulted in an enhanced severity of pancreatitis and lung injury. Conclusions: Our results reveal the role of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway in experimental SAP-associated lung injury; nicotine pretreatment exerts a protective effect and vagotomy pretreatment exerts the opposite effect.
      (Bold my emphasis)

      By 2013 it was decided:
      Methods such as direct stimulation of the vagus nerve, treatment with nicotine, and PAF-AH have proven to be effective in murine studies but are unsuitable for clinical use in humans.
      (Bold my emphasis)
      Bad news, men
      https ://
      Scientists believe that males could be more vulnerable to the coronavirus because they may have a weaker immune response to the disease, according to a column by The Financial Times.
      Enjoy a few cigarettes and ignore that smoking “could be” the reason this gender infection discrepancy is mentioned.
      I keep putting up a link to a non-peer reviewed paper that seems to make it’s way into the media. Perhaps now would be a good time to read it.

      Since some autoimmune disorders (more prevalent in women than men), e.g. Lupus, are associated with a cytokine storm (These cytokine storms differ!!! Look up the different cytokines!) perhaps nicotine could prevent worsening of these conditions?

  8. Rose says:

    Look what I’ve just found while searching your blog for swine flu, I’ve been looking for this for years.

    Framework Convention Alliance 2004

    FCTC Ratification Planning Worksheet

    1. Describe your advocacy objective as specifically as possible.

    Get your country to ratify the FCTC by December 31st 2004

    2. Who has the direct authority to make it happen [identify the target audience]

    4. What do they need to hear to persuade/cause/force them to make it happen?

    6. Who are the most effective messengers for our target audience? Who will the authorities most trust or listen to?

    Perhaps the Prime Minister, or a member of her family, has had successful surgery from a prominent heart or cancer surgeon.

    Perhaps the Health minister is particularly ambitious to be recognized and appreciated by the WHO Director General.”

    Click to access rat_wrksht.pdf

    Rotten to the Core

    The whole thread is worth another read.

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  10. Roger Knights says:

    Would vaping also offer protection? A November 2019 anti-vaping study from the University of Southern California (USC) said that its x-rays reveal that vapers lungs are coated with something, or anyway have changed how they look on an x-ray..

    • beobrigitte says:

      This is a good question and I’d have to speculate.
      I have also come across other speculations, e.g. such as smokers’ increased phlegm in the lung being a barrier.

    • Roger Knights says:

      Below is a link to a video by Public Health England comparing what goes into your lungs from smoking vs. vaping for a month. An air pump in conjunction with two big jars inhaled smoke from cigarettes into one and vapors from a comparably nicotinized e-cigarette into the other. The cotton balls in the cigarette-targeted jar became very dirty; those in the e-cigarette jar turned out very clean. Such dirty tars are what coat and irritate the lungs, causing cancer and other unhealthy impacts.

      • beobrigitte says:

        Roger, I’ve got news for you. Your anti-smoking friends already are going for you, too.
        Note, you, too, have been exiled to the outdoors. Remember how it all begun back in 2007?

  11. Ben Palmer says:

    An article – not a study – that seems to be somewhat contradicting the table above.
    Wuhan coronavirus patients who smoke have more severe symptoms:

    • beobrigitte says:

      Thank you! There will be a deluge of papers associating smokers negatively with COVID-19. only one (easily debunked, btw) of them made it NON-PEER REVIEWED into the media.
      Has anybody followed the WHO’s twitter today?

  12. Bob says:

    Chinese women smoke 10 times less than Chinese men (50-70% of whom smoke). This data then implies – *if* it’s correct – that a woman’s immune system more than compensates for the deficit factor non-smoking creates. Thusly, only 1 out of 3 to 4 people would then even have the possibility of infection – which doesn’t to be representative of the current virulence of the outbreak.

    • beobrigitte says:

      You need to look into estrogen. Post menopausal women are a different matter.

      I fail to understand why smoking is the first thing the WHO was concerned with after it – with a whole month delay !!!! – finally announced “Oh, well, it is an epidemic. Don’t worry, we’re on the ball. First of all, smoking must be negatively associated with this outbreak. And NCDs kill 7 out of 10 people”.
      When the WHO is after more cash, it’s press releases talk of ‘narrow window to stem the spread of the virus’. Once it got some cash it’s press releases are along the lines of ‘its all good folks.
      Now it has a new problem: Italy (and South Korea, followed by Japan).
      Btw, it’s Karneval weekend this weekend.

      I have come across accusations of large scale corruption ongoing in the WHO. I don’t know about that, can’t verify it.
      However, when this is over, serious questions need to be asked. We all fund this club and perhaps we can insist on transparency.

  13. beobrigitte says:

    Are they all now away with the mixer?
    Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread misinformation and alarm about coronavirus, disrupting global efforts to fight the epidemic, US officials have said.

    The disinformation campaign promotes unfounded conspiracy theories that the US is behind the new coronavirus outbreak, in an apparent bid to damage America’s image around the world.

    If Chris Martenson is right, (his science is sound, I just don’t necessarily agree with his conclusions at times) America needs to talk to it’s population about the real number of cases.

  14. beobrigitte says:

    In the meantime there are 62 cases in Italy. That’s 41 new ones, 16 of which are in critical condition. 1 death so far.

  15. beobrigitte says:

    Chasing this one up:
    is not easy.
    It is difficult enough to get as impartial as possible information these days.
    Perhaps we have to include VPN in investigation and the possibility of some real arsehole taking his game of “Plague.Inc” into the real world? Would even the biggest arsehole on this planet do something like that?

    Italy. We now have a good example of the virus spreading in the West with a given advantage: we KNOW of the existence of SARS-CoV-2 and have mapped it.
    We also have a few cases of COVID, so we are way ahead of where the Chinese were back in December.
    Now translate the densely populated Wuhan >11 million people into the whole of the Lombardy (population of about 10 million people).
    The speed of the spread fits. The Italians have taken drastic steps and we can only hope that there aren’t that many people who just don’t get the concept of self-isolation.

    Talking about isolation/quarantine. I do hope the young man was joking when he announced on social media “Butlin Wirral here we come”. If not, he will start moaning shortly despite being only in isolation (can leave room and meet other people in the same situation there and even go to a designated area outside). Quarantine is total isolation and has to be worse than what is known in the penal system as “solitary confinement”.

    I sincerely hope WHO officials are not visiting Wuhan ?today for the first time as “The Sun” claims.

  16. beobrigitte says:

    I have just stumbled across this video – in it Chris Martenson talks about economics and it might be interesting for people more clued about economics.

  17. beobrigitte says:

    Italy………117 cases right now.

    And here the WHO doing what it does best: BLAMING OTHERS.
    February 23
    – “Serious mistake was made not to quarantine people who arrived in Italy from China” said Walter Ricciardi of the WHO, adding that “within two weeks we will know if we are facing an epidemic”
    2 weeks???? Really? …. REALLY??? …. REALLY???????

    and advising that, for the next two weeks, people “avoid crowded places: metro, buses, trains, schools, discos, and gyms.”
    Guess what? The Italians thought of that by themselves yesterday.
    February 22
    EMERGENCY MEASURES: 11 towns and areas affected by the outbreak have been placed in lockdown: “In areas considered hotspots, neither entry or exit will be authorised without special permission” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, adding that businesses and schools in the areas would be closed.

    Who needs this money drain of WHO?
    Btw, if The Sun is right and WHO “EXPERTS” are heading to Wuhan for the first time

    A team of experts from the World Health Organisation have travelled to the Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak started.

    Health professionals from the WHO have not yet been to Wuhan but have worked on the outbreak in three Chinese provinces Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong.
    China DEFINITELY has a grip of the epidemic in Wuhan!!!!

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  20. yuri says:

    This article is very interesting, but I just don’t understand something:

    “Assuming that there is a population N1 (e.g. city of Wuhan) that are half smokers and half non-smokers”
    “According to the WHO: More than half of all adult men in China are regular smokers.”

    But there are 48% of *men* and 2% of women.

    So the total number of smokers in Wuhan should be 25%.
    So it would be:


    And so it is not 6 times but around 1,9.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong

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  26. Douglas Hall says:

    We are familiar with the early study in China that was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. A small study of 1,200 COVID patients revealed that only 12% of all men infected were smokers and had recovered. Amazing, considering that the male smoking rate in China is 50%. Female smoking rate is 2%.

    An April 5 report from the Washington National Post speculated reasons why more males than females worldwide were getting COVID. The Post stated smoking was the reason because, in China, the male smoking rate is 50% compared to 2% for females. There was no mention that only 12% of all men infected were smokers.

    An April 7 report from the Toronto CTV News stated that tobacco scientist Stanton Glantz was quoting the early China study revealing that fatal infections were found in 12% of smoking men, compared to only 5% of non-smoking men. The reporter then concluded that deaths were twice as likely if you smoke. This is wrong, in fact all of the smoking men had recovered from the COVID infection.

    Seems to me that Mainstream Media is misleading the public (or lying) about the facts concerning COVID and smoking.

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  28. The figures in that chart are strange

    1. They suggest that non-smokers are more likely to get it than smokers. Or else, one-quarter of cases would be smokers, not one-eighth.

    2. OTOH, we can assume that women are non-smokers (only 2% smoke) and they only represent 42% of all cases. Which suggests that non-smokers are less likely to get it.

    So I’d call it an inconclusive score-draw, to be honest.

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