Smoking puts you at risk of developing many serious health conditions, including cardiovascular heart and circulatory diseases, chronic lung disease, and diabetes. We know that people with these underlying health conditions are much more likely to be hospitalised or die if they catch coronavirus. During the pandemic you may have read news stories that suggest smokers are less likely to get coronavirus, while others say smoking increases your risk of severe illness from it.
While evidence is still emerging on the link between smoking and Covid, the damaging effect smoking has on your health outweighs any possible benefit. Smoking can also damage your lungs and immune system, making you more vulnerable to respiratory infections. The World Health Organization said “Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.
Cigarette smoke induces epigenetic modifications of the bronchial epithelium, leading to mucous (goblet) cell metaplasia. As goblet cells are a major source of ACE2 in the lung, this could, in part, justify the increased levels of ACE2 found by Cai and colleagues in lungs of smokers. However, goblet cells are also the main source of mucous, which provides an essential first host barrier to inhaled pathogens that can prevent pathogen invasion and subsequent infection.
Cigarette smoke is detrimental for the lungs in several ways, and further studies are needed to clarify the reasons behind the reported low prevalence of current smokers among hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The effect of current smoking on SARS-CoV-2 infection is a delicate and complex topic that should be addressed meticulously before delivering messages that could be misinterpreted.
It is important to describe the effects of tobacco smoke on nasal tissue due to SARS-CoV-2 entering through nasal airways, according to Neptune and Eakin. Currently, little research has been conducted regarding the effect of smoking on this specific airway. Research has shown that smoking affects the ability for someone to respond to a respiratory virus, but it is important to also research whether smoking contributes to this inability or compromises an individual’s inflammatory response to viruses like SARS-CoV-2, according to the authors.
Because renin angiotensin proteins control intracellular pathways that affect lung health, some evidence suggests the disruption of these proteins protects against lung injury from cigarette smoking in individuals with COPD. However, it is not yet known if this is true for individuals with COVID-19 infection.
Other research has focused on whether smoking affects lung angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, but further research on how and if tobacco smoke and nicotine affect SARS-CoV-2 infectivity or viral load is required to provide context to this research, according to the authors.
If you smoke, quitting is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart. Smoking cigarettes makes the walls of your arteries sticky from the chemicals, so fatty material can stick to them. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to your brain it can lead to a stroke.