Yet another big report on smoking being protective against Covid-19. Excerpts from Mail Online:
…data from multiple Chinese studies shows that COVID-19 hospital patients contained a smaller proportion of smokers than the general population (6.5 per cent compared to 26.6 per cent), suggesting they were less likely to end up in hospital.
Another study, by America’s Centers for Disease Control of over 7,000 people who tested positive for coronavirus, found that just 1.3 per cent of them were smokers – against the 14 per cent of all Americans that the CDC says smoke.
The study also found that the smokers stood no greater chance of ending up in hospital or an ICU.
The reasons for this are unclear.
Evidence coming out of scientific studies is conflicting and some say doctors are just too busy to be accurately noting down everyone’s smoking habits.
Some researchers suggest smoking could reverse one of the ways in which COVID-19 damages the lungs while others argue the lung damage caused by smoke makes the organs more susceptible to failure.
Governments in both the UK and US urge people to stop smoking to protect themselves from the virus, but scientists admit there is no clear proof cigarettes can worsen the disease.
Around 1.1billion people around the world smoke cigarettes in spite of evidence they cause lung cancer, heart disease and numerous other life-threatening illnesses.
Whether they make people more likely to end up in hospital or die if they catch COVID-19, however, is unclear.
A study published earlier this month by scientists in New York and Athens claims the opposite.
It looked at 13 Chinese studies that had registered smoking as a precondition and found that the number of smokers across the whole sample of 5,300 patients was 6.5 per cent. An astonishingly small number in country where half of all men still smoke.
‘This preliminary analysis does not support the argument that current smoking is a risk factor for hospitalization for COVID-19,’ it reads.
Dr Farsalinos’s study was shared on Twitter by Professor Francois Balloux, director of the genetics institute at University College London.
Professor Balloux described the paper as ‘puzzling’ and added: ‘Whilst the study design is far from perfect – and the authors are clear about its limitations – the evidence for a protective effect of smoking (or nicotine) against COVID-19 is bizarrely strong… actually far stronger than for any drug trialled at this stage…’
It is a claim that has been emerging around the world.
The theory of smokers having some level of protection from the virus stems from raw hospital data which suggested only small proportions of seriously-ill patients smoke.
Hospitals in China, the US, Germany and France have had hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients but admitted disproportionately small numbers of smokers.
According to the campaign group, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, early data showed that in Germany six per cent to 21 per cent; and in France six per cent compared to 27 per cent.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US showed that of around 7,000 COVID-19 patients, former smokers were more likely to be hospitalised or taken into intensive care than current smokers.
Just 22 of the hospital patients and five of those in intensive care admitted to being smokers, while 45 in hospital and 33 in ICU said they were former smokers.
Public Health England has not published any information about the people diagnosed or hospitalised with coronavirus in the UK.
Why then, scientists have asked, do smokers make up such a small proportion of patients when there are significantly more of them in the countries?
Experts have knocked this theory down and say reporting of who smokes and who doesn’t has not been accurate enough.
UCL’s Professor Brown told MailOnline: ‘It’s difficult to assess how well smoking status has been recorded in an emerging epidemic and a lot of these people have been too sick to answer or have not replied totally honestly.’
He added: ‘We know generally smokers tend to come from lower income groups which have poorer access to healthcare… so may be more likely to die in the community.’
Professor Paul Hunter, a former NHS doctor and now medicine lecturer at the University of East Anglia, agreed that recording was likely to blame.
He told MailOnline: ‘One interpretation is that smokers are less likely to end up in hospital.
‘But actually it’s more of an indication that when you’ve got doctors who are unbelievably busy they don’t complete all of the questioning they would normally do.’
Professor Hunter added that the notion smoking could protect people from COVID-19 was ‘rubbish’, but admitted the ACE-2 receptor link deserved further study.