If you’re a smoker or ex-smoker who has read reports that nicotine could prevent you from catching Covid-19, then you may be confused about what to do.
So far, the advice has been to quit smoking as this improves your chances of recovering from the virus.
You may now be wondering if quitting really is the best idea, with researchers looking at whether or not nicotine could protect you from catching the virus.
If you’re questioning whether quitting smoking is still the best way for you to protect your health, then the answer is YES.
Since the pandemic started, medical experts have warned that smokers are more likely to become seriously ill if they catch Covid-19. So even with the possibility that nicotine could offer protection against catching the virus, those smokers that do become infected are at far greater risks of developing severe symptoms.
Evidence suggests smokers and ex-smokers hospitalised with COVID-19 are at increased risk of greater disease severity.
Smoking is the leading cause of many life- threatening lung and cardiovascular conditions that are high risk factors for Covid-19. A study from China found that smokers are in fact 14 times more likely to suffer serious illness if they develop Covid-19.
More recently data from the COVID Symptom Study app involving more than 3 million people from the UK, Sweden and US, found that current smokers were 14% more likely to develop the three classic symptoms of coronavirus infection – fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath – than non-smokers.
Smokers were also 29% more likely to report more than five symptoms associated with COVID-19 and 50% more likely to report more than 10, including loss of smell, skipping meals, tiredness, diarrhoea, confusion or muscle pain. In addition, smokers were more than twice as likely as non-smokers to end up in hospital with severe symptoms of COVID-19 having tested positive for the disease.
The reports of a trial in France on nicotine patches to help prevent or lessen symptoms of COVID-19 should not put smokers off trying to quit, but encourage them to use other sources of nicotine to help them quit smoking tobacco.
Nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum are prescribed by doctors and provided by pharmacists as a safe and effective way to stop people from smoking.
Smoking tobacco, however is not safe. It contains over 5,000 deadly chemicals, many of which cause cancer and it is the leading cause of premature death in Wales. Around the world, smoking kills 50% of those that take it up.
ASH Wales’ advice to smokers is to quit now to reduce their risk of suffering severe symptoms of Covid-19. Using Nicotine Replace Therapy, e.g. patches, gum and e-cigarettes, is an effective way to quit smoking and much less harmful than cigarettes. Meanwhile non-smokers should never consider taking up a habit that is highly likely to one day kill them.
The World Health Organisation has issued a statement stressing that there is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. To find out more click here.
NHS Wales Help Me Quit stop smoking service is offering free advice and support to smokers that want to quit via their helpline 0800 0085 2219. Alternatively visit www.helpmequit.wales.
ASH Wales runs an online support group on Facebook, Quit Smoking (Wales).