Acclaimed as our greatest living artist, David Hockney is keen to share his opinions on the worldwide health crisis.
The 82-year-old painter is convinced that smoking helps protect against coronavirus. And he’s written a letter to the Daily Mail to argue his case.
Hockney suggests ‘smokers have developed an immune system to this virus’.
He points to research in China that appeared to show there were fewer smokers being treated with Covid-19 in hospitals than their numbers among the general population would suggest.
Writing from his home in Normandy, France, he says: ‘With all these figures coming out, it’s beginning to look like that to me.’
He adds: ‘I’m serious.’ His claims contradict the medical establishment, which has asserted that smokers find it harder to recover from the virus.
Just last month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.’ This echoed the advice of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who advised: ‘If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.’
However, Hockney has never been one to accept the consensus when it comes to smoking and said the Americans’ censorious attitude to cigarettes was one of the reasons why he moved to France last year.
‘I’ve smoked for more than 60 years, but I think I’m quite healthy,’ he said. ‘How much longer do I have? I’m going to die of either a smoking-related illness or a non-smoking-related illness.’
He took up the habit as an art student in Bradford. His father Kenneth was a militant anti-smoker. Hockney’s contrariness could be seen as part of his anti-authoritarian streak.