ASH Daily News for 14 February 2020
UK Smokers at increased risk of coronavirus complications, leading experts warn
I have a different take on it: How To Prevent Coronavirus? Start Smoking. It was based on a recent Chinese study showing that smokers were much less likely than non-smokers to contract coronavirus, and when they did they generally had milder symptoms.
I wonder if ASH’s warning went viral? Because my piece went a bit viral in Spain a few days ago, and then in Turkey yesterday, with about 1000 hits from each.
In fact there may be a very simple reason why smokers are less likely to catch any virus, and it is that smokers have already been effectively quarantined by being made to stand outside. The result is that the indoor non-smokers are far more likely to catch viruses from each other as they breathe shared indoor air than outdoor smokers breathing fresh air.
And here’s a case where smoking bans protect smokers from non-smokers, rather than protect non-smokers from smokers.
The protection is even greater in those hospitals where smokers are excluded not just from inside the hospitals, but even from the hospital grounds. And since hospitals are the places most likely to have high populations of coronavirus patients, the smokers outside the hospital gates are the best protected of all.
The protection may also be further enhanced if smokers actively stay away from all crowded indoor places from which they have been excluded – such as theatres, cinemas, galleries, museums, hotels, stations, and the like.
And the protection will be enhanced even further if smokers keep the company of other smokers rather than that of non-smokers.
The net result is that highly socially isolated smokers will be the people most highly protected from any infectious diseases circulating in the non-smoking population
Seen this way, smoking bans might even be counted as more of a blessing for smokers than for non-smokers.
In addition, if tobacco smoke fumigates indoor environments in the same way as Bactericidal Wood Smoke, then the smoky environments of the past were actually far healthier than the modern “smoke-free” ones. In fact, one might expect infectious diseases of all kinds to multiply far more easily in “smoke-free” environments than smoky ones.
It’s not clear whether wood smoke has virucidal as well as bactericidal and fungicidal properties. But given that tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemical compounds, it seems plausible to suppose that some of these will have virusidal properties like, for example, bleach. But it seems that many viruses are also de-activated by high air temperatures, and given that wood smoke will always be the product of combustion, smoke-filled air will generally have a higher temperature than ambient air, and this will act to reduce viral infectivity. So in addition to being protected by social exclusion, smokers may also be additionally protected by the cloud of smoke surrounding them.
Whether or not tobacco smoke is virusidal, any Hot Smoke passing through the hot (700° C.) coal of a cigarette will have all its bacterial and fungal and viral burden incinerated, so smokers will generally be inhaling cleaner air than non-smokers
From a study of the SARS Coronavirus:
The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus
The main route of transmission of SARS CoV infection is presumed to be respiratory droplets. However the virus is also detectable in other body fluids and excreta. The stability of the virus at different temperatures and relative humidity on smooth surfaces were studied. The dried virus on smooth surfaces retained its viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22–25°C and relative humidity of 40–50%, that is, typical air-conditioned environments. However, virus viability was rapidly lost (>3 log10) at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (e.g., 38°C, and relative humidity of >95%). The better stability of SARS coronavirus at low temperature and low humidity environment may facilitate its transmission in community in subtropical area (such as Hong Kong) during the spring and in air-conditioned environments. It may also explain why some Asian countries in tropical area (such as Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand) with high temperature and high relative humidity environment did not have major community outbreaks of SARS.