A new study conducted by researchers from King’s College London (KCL) has found that smoking is associated with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers analysed data from 2.4-million people collected by the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App. Out of the participants that provided information, 11% were smokers. While this figure is a lower proportion than the overall UK population of smokers, which is around 14.7%, it does reflect the demographics of the self-selected sample of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study.

During the study, which took place between March 24 and April 24, 2020, more than a third of all participants reported they did not feel well, while smokers were 14% more likely to develop classic COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath – compared to non-smokers.

The study also found that smokers were 29% more likely to report more than five symptoms associated with COVID-19 and 50% more likely to report more than ten, including loss of smell, skipping meals, diarrhoea, fatigue, confusion or muscle pain.

“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,” said Dr Mario Falchi, Reader for the School of Life Course Sciences.

Additionally, smokers who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital when compared to non-smokers.

Researchers involved in the study have since recommended that a smoking ban or cessation strategy be implemented to address the surge in COVID-19 cases in the UK, as smoking increased both the likelihood of symptomatic disease and disease severity.

“Our analysis shows that smoking increases a person’s likelihood to attend hospitals, so stopping smoking is one of the things we can do to reduce the health consequences of the disease,” said Claire Steves, lead researcher, consultant physician and Reader at the School of Life Course Sciences.

Click here to read a full breakdown of the study, which was published in Thorax.

Picture: Pixabay

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