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Tobacco smokers are 6X more likely to die from COVID-19

I know this will shock everyone, but a recent study showed that tobacco smokers are 80% more likely to be admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 than non-smokers. And tobacco smokers are 6X more likely to die from COVID-19.

From the beginning, I assumed that smoking was one of the biggest comorbidities for COVID-19 hospitalization, but it took until now for an official, peer-reviewed paper to provide evidence.

So, add COVID-19 hospitalization and death to lung cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, all cancers, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, and everything else as something that tobacco smokers should think about the next time they light up.

tobacco smokers COVID-19
Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash

Tobacco smokers and COVID-19 – the paper

In a study published in Thorax, by Dr. Ashley K Clift, University of Oxford, observational data were analyzed along with hospital SARS-CoV-2 test data and UK Biobank genetic information. The data covered 421,469 individuals.

Of these individuals:

  • 3.2% took a PCR swab test
  • 0.4% of these tested positive (1649)
  • 0.2% of them required hospitalisation for COVID-19 (968)
  • 0.1% of them died due to COVID-19 (444)

The smoking status of this group was:

  • 59% had never smoked
  • 37% were ex-smokers
  • 3% were current smokers

Compared to never smokers:

  • Current smokers had higher risks of hospitalisation (OR = 1.80), or 80% more likely.
  • For current smokers who smoke 1-9 cigarettes per day, the OR = 2.14, or over 2X more likely to die.
  • Smoking 10-19 cigarettes per day, the OR = 5.91, or nearly 6X more likely to die.
  • Smoking 20+ cigarettes per day, the OR = 6.11, or more than 6X more likely to die.
  • All of the odds ratios were statistically significant,

In case you missed those numbers, even smoking a few cigarettes per day doubled the risk of death from COVID-19. And any more than that increased that risk to 6X over non-smokers.

Apparently, there is a belief among smokers that it may protect them against COVID-19. Well, according to an accompanying editorial, “the idea that tobacco smoking may protect against COVID-19 was always an improbable one.”

no smoking sign
Photo by Ann H on


If there is any good excuse to quit smoking, it is this study. Tobacco smokers have a substantially increased risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 compared to non-smokers. I hate to be that person who stands on a pedestal and screams, “quit smoking,” but I am.

Instead of waiting 30 years to die from lung cancer, smokers can catch COVID-19 and die faster. Stop smoking.


Michael Simpson

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