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More evidence verifies that smoking is linked to higher risks of dying from COVID-19

Johannesburg, S.A – Smoking increases the chances of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms by 80% and increases the risk of death by 511%, for smokers who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day. This is according to research published in a leading respiratory journal, Thorax, on Tuesday.

The new study found that compared with those who had never smoked, current smokers were 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital. It found that heavy smoking significantly increased chances of dying from Covid-19 complications, by up to 511% for those who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day - compared to non-smokers. The UK study drew on primary care records, COVID-19 test results, hospital admissions data and death certificates to look for associations between smoking and COVID-19 infection severity from January to August 2020 in over 400 000 participants of the UK Biobank.

This study strengthens the evidence base and establishes a causal link between smoking and serious Covid-19 complications. It also supports the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister’s case, who has since been granted leave to appeal the Western Cape Judgement over the temporary ban on tobacco sales. A key justification raised by government, was that tobacco use was linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes and that the ban was important in easing the burden on the health system.

Quitting smoking is one sure way to prevent death from Covid-19, keep people out of hospital, and should be high on the list of preventive steps. Smokers who need help to stop smoking can call the Quitline at 011720 3145 or send a WhatsApp message on 0727664812.


Notes to editor:

1. Research article: Clift, A.K., et al. (2021) Smoking and COVID-19 outcomes: an observational and Mendelian randomisation study using the UK Biobank cohort. Thorax.

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