In a study from UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, scientists found that current smokers have a 12% increased risk of a laboratory-confirmed viral infection and a 48% increased risk of being diagnosed with respiratory illnesses.
These results did not vary by type of virus, including a coronavirus.
Past research has shown that smoking increases the risk of COVID-19 disease severity, but the risk of infection had been less clear.
This study findings show smokers have an increased risk of viral infection, including a coronavirus and respiratory illness.
In the study, the team re-analyzed data from the British Cold Study (BCS), a 1986-1989 challenge study that exposed 399 healthy adults to 1 of 5 “common cold” viruses.
This included a type of common coronavirus (coronavirus 229E) that existed prior to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 virus), which causes COVID-19 disease.
The data showed that current smokers had an increased risk of respiratory viral infection and illness, with no significant difference across the types of viruses.
The increased associations for only the coronavirus 229E did not reach statistical significance. This was likely due to the small sample size with only 55 participants, of whom 20 were smokers.
These findings are consistent with known harms caused by smoking to immune and respiratory defenses and some observational evidence of increased COVID-19 infection and disease progression in current smokers.
The researchers say that findings may have implications for addressing tobacco use at the population level as a strategy for preventing COVID-19 infection.
A quarter of the U.S. population currently smokes or has high levels of cotinine, a nicotine metabolite, and there is no safe level of smoke exposure for non-smokers.
Global tobacco control is urgently important too, as many countries have even higher smoking prevalence rates.
If you care about smoking, please read studies about why most smokers don’t get lung cancer, and this anti-smoking drug may treat Parkinson’s in women.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about how to prevent loss of smell and taste from COVID-19, and results showing these people have less severe COVID-19 infections.
The study was conducted by Melanie Dove et al and published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
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