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Quit before winter: warning as new study shows smoking increases odds of dying from Covid



FRESH and a North East doctor are urging smokers to quit before winter. It comes as a major new study of nearly half a million people suggests smoking is linked to more severe COVID-19 and odds of death doubled even in light smokers.


The study, published on 28th September 2021 in the respiratory Journal Thorax presents evidence that even light smokers are twice as likely to die from COVID.


The 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 421,469 participants.


Compared with people who had never smoked, current smokers were 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital and significantly more likely to die.


The risk of death doubled among light smokers; it rose more than 5-fold among moderate smokers, and more than 6-fold among heavy smokers after accounting for age and sex.


Dr Ruth Sharrock, respiratory consultant with Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, Clinical Lead for the North East Smokefree NHS/Treating Tobacco Dependency Taskforce, said: "Having looked after patients admitted to hospital throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen the devastation it causes first hand. We are still caring for those suffering from the infection, its complications and its prolonged recovery phase.


"This research helps clinicians give very clear advice to smokers that- even smoking fewer than nine cigarettes a day doubles the risks of dying from COVID-19.


"We must do everything we can to help smokers quit before winter and friends and loved ones can support people making a quit attempt this Stoptober. Please don't leave it any longer. We will all need to put ourselves in the best possible position we can to stay healthy this winter."


Lead researcher Dr Ash Clift, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, said: "Our study found clear evidence that smoking is linked to increased risks of being hospitalised due to COVID-19, and dying from it. Just as smoking is associated with heart disease and many other conditions, it appears that it is the same for COVID, so now may be as good a time as any to quit."


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, said: "At the start of the pandemic we saw a big increase in smokers quitting but people can relapse, especially after a summer of freedom. If you've quit before you can do it again and quitting can reduce anxiety after a few weeks. Ensuring you have enough quitting medication, or vaping supplies will help you stay off tobacco. Think of all the reasons you quit.


"If you're still smoking, it is incredibly important to give quitting a go, especially as the winter approaches. Stopping smoking brings important health benefits at any age."


As the NHS prepares for a major flu vaccination drive, smokers are five times more likely to develop influenza than non-smokers. Flu symptoms may also be worse among smokers.


For help to quit ask in a pharmacy, with your GP or search – 'Smokefree' for details of your local stop smoking service and other ways to quit.


See full study