Heavy smokers are twice as likely to be hospitalized and are at greater risk of dying from Covid-19 compared to non-smokers, according to the author of a study by a top American hospital, Cleveland Clinic, speaking ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Monday, 31 May.
Dr. Joe Zein, a pulmonary medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic, said: “Heavy smokers are at twice the risk of being hospitalized from Covid-19 than non-smokers, which means that smokers are far more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and to die from the disease. Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for people to improve their health, and World No Tobacco is an opportunity to emphasize that people should stop smoking or not start in the first place. Smoking can lead to heart attacks, strokes, loss of limbs, becoming physically disabled in a wheelchair or needing oxygen.”
According to the findings of the recent study, which involved 7,012 Covid-19 patients at Cleveland Clinic and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), patients who were heavy smokers had a 2.25-times higher odds of hospitalization, and were 1.89 times more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to non-smoking patients.
The World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day theme for 2021, Commit to Quit, has been given a boost by the pandemic, which is leading millions of tobacco users worldwide to consider quitting.
Worldwide, about 50 percent of young men and 10 percent of young women are smokers, according to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Tobacco use is the biggest external cause of non-communicable disease, and is expected to kill 10 million per year in the coming decades, and 1 billion people in the 21st century.
In helping patients who want to quit smoking, the most important step is that patients have to be mentally prepared to stop smoking, Dr. Zein said. “Smoking is an addiction, and patients should enroll in a smoking cessation program to address the socio-psychological issues behind why they are smoking and to help solve their addiction.”
Dr. Zein cited studies that show heavy smokers can lose about 50-60 mL of lung function every year, or about three times more than the roughly 20 mL annual loss for non-smokers. Dr Zein added, “The good news is that if patients stop smoking, their yearly lung function loss will be similar to that of a non-smoker.”
While some cigarette smokers may look to replace cigarettes with alternatives such as shisha or vaping, Dr. Zein emphasized that smoking shisha is not a healthier substitute for cigarette smoking, and could actually be more harmful due to unfiltered pipes and secondhand smoke in shisha cafes. Vaping is not any better, as it can greatly increase the risk of lung disease and premature death for many teenagers, he added.
Cleveland Clinic – now in its centennial year – is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation.