Are Smokers at Higher Risk for COVID-19?

October 7, 2020
Are Smokers at Higher Risk for COVID-19

If you are a smoker, you may be wondering if you’re at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Although there haven’t yet been any studies providing a conclusive answer to this question, many researchers agree that smoking can increase someone’s chances of contracting this virus for a few different reasons.

The Act of Smoking Itself

Research suggests that COVID-19 is spread when respiratory droplets from an infected person enter into another person’s nose or mouth. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people wash their hands with soap and water on a regular basis, but especially before eating, blowing their nose, handling their mask, or touching their face for any other reason. The CDC has also stated that people should avoid touching their face with unwashed hands.

Think about what the act of smoking actually involves. First, you have to enter into a store to purchase the cigarettes and possibly a lighter. Once you leave the store, you get out the cigarettes and lighter, which you likely didn’t disinfect after the cashier handled them. Once you’ve lit the cigarette, you repeatedly raise it toward your mouth, thereby bringing any germs that were on your hands into the direct proximity of your nose and mouth.

Plus, smoking tends to be a social activity, which will likely place you within six feet of your fellow smokers, especially if you’re sharing cigarettes or a lighter. The fact that everyone is exhaling their smoke in each other’s directions makes it much more likely that respiratory droplets will be exchanged. And because no one will be wearing a mask while they’re smoking, there won’t be any protective barriers in place.

The Effects of Smoking on the Body

Smoking exerts a significant toll on the lungs and immune system, making it more difficult for them to fight off any type of respiratory infection, including COVID-19. This suggests that when a smoker contracts COVID-19, he or she will have a greater risk of developing complications from the virus. Indeed, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, recently performed a study on more than 11,000 COVID-19 patients and found that the risk of disease progression in smokers (not just current smokers, but former smokers as well) was almost double that of nonsmokers.

What to Do If You Smoke

If you’re a smoker, one of the best things you can do is quit, not just for COVID-19 specifically, but for your overall health too. Quitting would also save you a considerable amount of money on cigarettes, which could be incredibly beneficial given the current state of the economy. With that being said, quitting smoking can be unbelievably difficult, so if you’re not able to stop, you can take other steps to minimize your chances of contracting COVID-19, such as washing your hands before you smoke a cigarette and making it a point to smoke on your own rather than in a group.

If you’d like to know more about how smoking can affect your chances of contracting COVID-19, contact PhysicianOne Urgent Care today.

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