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No, smokers are no less likely to get COVID-19

by Maxime Dubé - June 17, 2020   524 Views   3 min
No, smokers are no less likely to get COVID-19

Claim

Smoking may reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19

Verdict

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

An article published on April 28, 2020 on the DailyMail.com website suggests that smoking tobacco may decrease chances of contracting COVID-19. This statement is inaccurate.

Not enough evidence to say that smoking tobacco decreases the risk of COVID-19

In the article, the author claims that smoking tobacco could reduce the risk of being infected by COVID-19. To make this claim, she referred to a review of the scientific literature conducted by researchers at University College London who determined that the proportion of smokers among patients with COVID-19 is lower than expected.

However, in a statement issued on May 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned scientists and the media against stating that cigarette smoking may decrease the likelihood of being infected by COVID-19, since the information available to date cannot establish such a correlation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also asserts that tobacco can cause inflammation and cellular damage and weaken the immune system, making it less able to fight diseases.

At the outset, methodological problems appear in the claim we are checking: the study's researchers admitted that hospitals probably did not properly record the smoking status of patients. Hospital staff may have been too busy to properly record patients' smoking status, patients may have been too ill to answer such questions, and some may even have lied about their status.

To avoid this kind of methodological bias, WHO believes it is important to conduct a peer-reviewed study in a well-defined and controlled population that takes into account age differences as well as risk factors that could impact on outcomes.

With regard to vaping, the FDA says it does not have enough evidence to clearly establish an association between the use of e-cigarettes and the risk of COVID-19 infection, even though it is known that vaping exposes the lungs to toxic chemicals.

Smokers' actions increase the risk of catching COVID-19

According to WHO and the Government of Quebec, smokers and those who vape are at greater risk of contracting the disease because of the actions they take when they smoke. Indeed, smokers fail to respect safety gestures such as avoiding touching their mouth with their hands or making physical contact with objects potentially contaminated by others when they share their cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Despite the data collected in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of rigor in their collection and the increased risks caused by the actions of smokers lead us to conclude that it is inaccurate to state that smoking reduces the risk of catching COVID-19.

Increased chances of developing a more severe form of the disease

While it is incorrect to associate smoking with a reduced risk of COVID-19 infection, a WHO review concludes that infected smokers are at risk of developing more severe forms of the disease and are more likely to be placed on a respirator. This conclusion was also put forward by the author of the original claim we fact-checked.

This is because smoking is a factor that worsens respiratory diseases, and COVID-19 is considered a respiratory disease. Smoking leads to decreased lung function, which in turn leads to a decrease in the system's response to pathogens such as coronaviruses. In addition, smokers are more likely to have serious illnesses that increase the risk of complications from COVID-19 such as cancer, respiratory infections, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.

What can smokers do to protect themselves?

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) suggests that the best way for smokers to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to reduce or quit smoking. To do this, WHO recommends using free telephone or text message support services and using nicotine substitutes such as patches and gum.

If you are considering continuing to smoke, the FNHA recommends avoiding the spread of second-hand smoke, especially among older people with chronic diseases or people with weak immune systems. In addition, when smoking in a group, stay at least two metres away from others and do not share your cigarette or e-cigarette with others.


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  Claim

Daily Mail

Organization
Smoking may reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19

Verdict:

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

 June 17, 2020


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