Report: Smoking associated with increased risk of COVID-19 symptoms

A new report published in the medical journal Thorax indicates smokers face an increased risk of hospitalization because of smoking and that smoking causes an increased risk of showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers at King’s College London analyzed data from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study App that looked at information self-reported by participants. More than a third of the participants reported not feeling well during the study period – March 24th through April 2020.

The study found that smokers were 14 percent more likely to develop classic symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, coughing, and shortness of breath – than non-smokers. Additionally, smokers were 29 percent more likely to report more than five symptoms (such as loss of smell, loss of taste, skipping meals, diarrhea, fatigue, confusion, or muscle pain) of COVID-19, and 50 percent more likely to report more than 10. The more symptoms a patient reports suggest a more severe case of COVID-19.

Lastly, researchers found that current smokers who tested positive for COVID-19 were more than twice as likely as non-smokers to be admitted to the hospital.

Researchers recommended that quitting smoking should be included to address the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the likelihood of symptomatic disease and disease severity and reduce the strain put on health systems from other smoking-related conditions.

“Some reports have suggested a protective effect of smoking on COVID-19 risk. However, studies in this area can easily be affected by biases in sampling, participation, and response. Our results clearly show that smokers are at increased risk of suffering from a wider range of COVID-19 symptoms than non-smokers,” Dr. Mario Falchi, lead researcher and Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, said.

Liz Carey

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