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VERIFY: Smokers are not at less risk from coronavirus

Headlines citing a recent study are claiming that smokers are at less risk of COVID-19, but the science leans the other way.

Recent headlines about a COVID-19 study have been making bold claims that smokers are at less risk of the virus. But before you go out and start stocking up on cigarettes, you might want to read what we found. 

THE QUESTION:

Are smokers really at less risk of contracting COVID-19?

THE ANSWER:

A study found that nicotine may be blocking or hindering COVID-19's spread through the body. The study has not been peer-reviewed and does not give definite answers about the possible link.

Even if nicotine were found to decrease the spread of COVID-19, smoking would be a bad choice. The World Health Organization cites research that shows smokers have a higher vulnerability to COVID-19.

WHAT WE FOUND

In the French study, researchers suggest that daily smokers are at less risk for COVID-19 infection. Specifically, that a person's current smoking status could be a protective factor against infection of the virus. The study hypothesizes that nicotine might be blocking the way the disease is spread inside the body.

The study does acknowledge the fact that nicotine is not a safe substance and suggests that nicotine substitutes could have a positive effect against the virus if researched further. 

Although the study might sound promising, scientific understanding of smoking and COVID-19 seem to agree that smoking does more bad than good when it comes to the virus. 

One particular analysis reviewed five other studies conducted in China about COVID-19 that included information on patients' smoking status and outlines any associations found between smoking and the virus. They found that smoking is very likely associated with the negative progression of the novel coronavirus

The World Health Organization also says that smokers are more likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19 for a couple of reasons. The main one is smoking increases oxygen needs, putting smokers at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia which can be caused by the disease.

In response to the study, France even banned online sales of nicotine substitutes and limited the sales of such products at pharmacies. 

Even if the study's hypothesis does turn out to be true, the researchers emphasized the current smoking status of people, meaning it would not be beneficial to pick up a smoking habit for the sake of protection against the virus. Most doctors agree that keeping your lungs at optimal health can only be beneficial when fighting against COVID-19.   

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