Smokers 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital if they catch Covid, study finds

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Smokers who contract Covid are 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital than those who do not touch cigarettes, according to a study today.

The research, conducted by the University of Oxford, paints a clearer picture on the confusing topic of smoking and the coronavirus.

At the start of the pandemic, scientists were baffled by data that showed smokers were less likely to be hospitalized with the virus. Some scans have even suggested that they face a lower risk of getting infected in the first place.

But the new study, based on more than 420,000 patients, found that smokers were much more likely to get seriously ill if they were infected.

However, he did not examine whether smokers were less likely to test positive in the first place.

Experts said the “respiratory pandemic” was probably a great time to focus on quitting smoking.

Around 6.9 million Britons smoke, but more than half have already said they want to quit. In the United States, there are 34.1 million smokers.

Smokers infected with Covid are more likely to be hospitalized or die than those who have never smoked, research shows. It comes after other articles at the start of the pandemic suggested the opposite was the case (stock image)

The results of the study showed that among nearly 14,000 smokers, there were 51 admissions of Covid. This equated to one in 270 hospitalizations.

There have also been as many as 36 deaths, which equates to one in 384 succumbing to the virus.

By way of comparison, among the 250,000 non-smokers, there were 440 hospitalizations, or one in nearly 600.

The researchers added that there had been 159 more deaths from Covid, equivalent to one in 1,666.

Does smoking really make Covid hospitalization less likely?

At the start of the pandemic, studies emerged suggesting that smokers who caught Covid were less likely to be hospitalized than those who had never used a cigarette.

Papers adding evidence to this theory included one from University College London published in April last year, which found that the proportion of Covid admissions who were smokers was “below expectations.”

Scientists were taken aback by the results, calling them “bizarre.”

But as the pandemic progressed, other studies began to undermine the claims.

The first conclusive evidence that in fact the risk of developing a serious illness in smokers was double that of non-smokers came from a study from King’s College London in January.

It also found that smokers were 14% more likely to experience the three main symptoms of the virus: fever, persistent cough, and loss of taste and smell.

And they found they were 50% more likely to suffer from a myriad of other symptoms, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.

Scientists at the University of Oxford examining the records of 421,000 UK patients – including 13,000 smokers – is the latest study to find that smokers are more exposed to the virus.

In-depth analysis, published in the journal Thorax, showed a risk gradient effect, providing even more evidence that smoking actually increases the risk of serious disease.

Light smokers – who smoked up to nine cigarettes a day – were twice as likely to die from the virus as non-smokers.

Moderate smokers – who smoked 10 to 19 cigarettes a day – were five times more likely to succumb to the virus.

And heavy smokers – classified as smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day – were six times more likely to die.

Principal Investigator Dr Ashley Clift said: “Our results strongly suggest that smoking is linked to your risk of getting severe Covid.

“Just as smoking affects your risk for heart disease, different cancers and all these other conditions that we know smoking is linked to, it seems the same is true for Covid.

“So, now might be as good as any time to quit and quit smoking.”

He added: “A respiratory pandemic should be the perfect time to focus collective minds on tobacco control.”

Sections of studies at the start of the pandemic showed a low prevalence of smokers in hospitals with Covid.

Rigorous scientific reviews that explored the link in more detail quickly began to dismiss the initial claims.

The first paper challenging the touted theory was published in January by King’s College London and health data science company ZOE.

They found that smoking doubled the risk of severe Covid and hospitalization, and was 14% more likely to suffer from all three main symptoms than people who had never smoked.

Smokers were also 50% more likely to develop any of the other ten symptoms they reported, including cough, fever, and loss of appetite.

At the start of the pandemic, when little was known about SARS-CoV-2, researchers instinctively warned that smokers would be at higher risk.

But studies have emerged that have suggested the opposite may be the case, which has left experts floundering and calling them “weird.”

The World Health Organization said in June of last year, however, that smoking can make people more susceptible to Covid.

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