Can smoking protect you against COVID-19?
Many of you will have already seen or heard about a paper by Farsalinos et al., in which they review some case series data from China and observe that for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the recorded smoking prevalence is far lower than would be expected given the population prevalence. The US CDC also released data a couple of days ago that shows the same pattern. If the data is representative and accurate (but note that there are compelling reasons to question whether either of those is true), this strongly suggests that smoking is hugely protective against COVID-19 inflection and/or the resulting disease progressing to the point that hospitalization is required.
We are not talking at the level of “well I guess smokers get a bit of compensation this year for all the health costs of smoking.” This is at the level of “everyone should take up smoking for a few months until the pandemic abates.” The protective effect implied by the data is absolutely huge.
In fact Phillips has strong reservations about the study.
What really floors me is the fact that people do not want this to be true. We are desperately trying to slow the spread and reduce the severity of a disease we cannot cure or vaccinate against. We are suffering enormous costs in order to do that. How great would it be if everyone could reduce their risk of getting a serious case of the disease by 80% by smoking a few packs?
Needless to say, for anyone other than sociopathic monomaniacs, it would be great. Alas, I doubt it is really true. Still, that is what the statistics suggest.
I thought that the assertion by a NYC intensive care doctor Cameron Kyle-Sidell that his patients were not suffering from pneumonia, but from oxygen starvation, suggested an explanation of how smoking may help breathing low oxygen air that goes back to the experience of Everest mountaineers 100 years ago:
It seems to me that there are now a growing number of studies or reports suggesting that smoking tobacco is beneficial for Covid-19 patients.
Surely it should be very easy to test the hypothesis during a Covid-19 pandemic? There are several thousand Britons who have tested positive for the infection, and who will be isolated at home, and experiencing mild symptoms of the disease. Why not immediately enlist a few hundred of these to see whether smoking has any beneficial effect?
If there appear to be benefits, a formal study could then be designed to assess more accurately what these benefits might be
In fact such informal studies are probably already under way all over the world, as smokers discover that their habit may be more valuable than they knew..