Tobacco use is linked to increased risk of severe complication and death from COVID-19, anti-smoking advocates said, criticizing a French study that suggests smokers are less likely to contract the disease.
The study shared on social media platforms in based on an observational study conducted a year ago, the John Tung Foundation said in a blog post on May 29.
Reports about the study at the time caused sales of nicotine products to soar in France, prompting the French government to impose controls, including a ban on the online sale of nicotine gum and patches, the foundation said.
However, the study is likely erroneous, the foundation said, citing National Taiwan University Hospital doctor of family medicine Guo Fei-ran (郭斐然).
Smoking is more likely to result in COVID-19 complications, rather than protecting against the disease, it said.
The research was conducted during the peak of France’s outbreak, which resulted in chaotic conditions at hospitals, which hindered the accurate recording of data, Guo was cited as saying.
The study was based on self-reported smoking habits, which is not reliable, as people were on ventilator waiting lists and had incentive to misstate their health habits, he said.
Multiple studies have shown that smokers who have COVID-19 are more likely to develop severe complications, be put on a ventilator or die, Guo was cited as saying.
The correlation between smoking and worse clinical outcomes is not surprising, as smoking has been linked to severe complications and higher mortality in people with the flu and viral or bacterial pneumonia, the foundation cited him as saying.
Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette users who have COVID-19 are twice as likely to develop severe complications and 14 times more likely to have a decline in their health condition after being hospitalized for two weeks, said Lai Chih-kuan (賴志冠), a physician at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
E-cigeratte users aged 13 to 24 are five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, while people in that age group who smoke and use e-cigarettes are seven times more likely to be infected, Lai said, citing a Stanford University study.
“Rejecting tobacco products is an important step in anti-pandemic efforts,” the foundation said.
The WHO supports people quitting smoking to reduce the risk of developing severe COVID-19, the organization said, adding that smokers are at 40 to 50 percent higher risk of developing severe illness or death from the virus.
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