London: Smoking not only increases the risk of contracting coronavirus but also weakens the respiratory system making smokers more vulnerable to the virus.
Smoking increases risk: WHO
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), using tobacco products may result in an increase in chances of getting COVID-19 due to the following reasons:
- Bringing hands to lips can transfer the virus into the body.
- Sharing tobacco products can transmit the virus between people.
- Tobacco weakens the respiratory system making smokers more vulnerable to the virus.
Smoker has higher level of ACE-2
A team of researchers has also claimed that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and people who currently smoke have a higher level of an enzyme that is the ‘entry point for new coronavirus in lungs.
Previous research shows that the molecule, called angiotensin converting enzyme II (ACE-2) which sits on the surface of lung cells, is the ‘entry point’ that allows coronavirus to get into the cells of the lungs and cause an infection.
The new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, showed that levels of ACE-2 in former smokers are lower than in current smokers.
“The data emerging from China suggested that patients with COPD were at higher risk of having worse outcomes from COVID-19. We hypothesised that this could be because the levels of ACE-2 in their airways might be increased compared to people without COPD, which could possibly make it easier for the virus to infect the airway,” explained lead researcher Dr Janice Leung from the University of British Columbia and St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, Canada.
The team studied samples taken from the lungs of 21 COPD patients and 21 people who did not have COPD.
They tested the samples to gauge the level of ACE-2 and compared this with other factors, such as whether they were from people who never smoked, were current smokers or former smokers. Not only did they find higher levels of ACE-2 in COPD patients, they also found higher levels in people who were smokers.
Smoking increases risk of contracting virus 14 times
Meanwhile, the head of a Turkish anti-addiction group told that smoking increases the risk of contracting coronavirus by 14 times.