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Scientists Are Investigating Whether Nicotine Protects Against Coronavirus

Scientists Are Investigating Whether Nicotine Protects Against Coronavirus

The curious case of smoking and COVID-19

While the science is still inconclusive, there are credible studies which suggest that smoking may not increase your likelihood of hospitalisation if you get COVID-19.

In fact, some studies found that smokers may be at lower risk than non-smokers.

However, there is also research which suggests that a history of smoking can have a negative effect on COVID-19 patients.

One preprint article looked at the hospitalisation statistics from several studies in China. It argued that far fewer smokers diagnosed with COVID-19 were being hospitalised than expected, given China’s demographics.

The study stated that on average, 26.6% of people in China are smokers. Smoking is also prevalent in men – 50.1% – compared to women – 2.1%.

Despite the fact that men accounted for more hospitalisations than women, the proportion of smokers among those who were hospitalised for COVID-19 was much lower than expected, according to the article’s authors.

While the article has been controversial, Vice reports that it has undergone peer review and will be published in the journal Internal and Emergency Medicine.

It is not the only study involving smoking to have obtained such controversial results.

Another article released in preprint which looked at patients in New York City found that smoking was not a significant factor in determining whether someone with COVID-19 would need hospitalisation.

Leora Horwitz, a co-author of the paper and director at the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science at NYU Langone Health, said they do not understand the smoking results yet and are investigating them further.
Scientific debate
It should be noted that COVID-19 is a rapidly-developing area of scientific enquiry and there is still a lot of uncertainty and crucial debate as new research is published.

One preprint article found that smoking can double your risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19 if you are infected by the coronavirus.

There have also been reports that French researchers are testing nicotine patches on COVID-19 patients and frontline workers, resulting in France banning the online sale of nicotine substitutes.

A draft order from the European Commission said that as a result of the media coverage around the potential beneficial effects of nicotine on COVID-19, regulations are needed to limit the dispensing of nicotine replacement treatments.

Health authorities around the world, including the Department of Health in South Africa and the World Health Organisation, continue to advise that smoking can make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth,” the World Health Organisation states.

“Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness.”

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