“If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.”
-Professor Chris Witty - Chief Medical Officer
“It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”
-Matt Hancock - Secretary of State for Health
The evidence is clear. Smokers are more at risk for serious complications resulting from infections from the coronavirus group of respiratory diseases. Now is a good time to quit.
Some media are also reporting that vapers face additional risks from coronavirus. The evidence for this is far less clear. However, smokers who have switched to vaping should be reassured that this is better for them than smoking.
Does smoking cigarettes or vaping increase your chances of developing coronavirus and make it harder to recover?
According to Dr Michael Matthay, the associate director of critical care medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), the answer is yes - although it is not currently known to what extent.
“Based on prior studies with other pulmonary infections, both bacterial and viral, it is highly likely that cigarette smoking and vaping will increase the risk of coronavirus pneumonia and increase its severity, though we don’t know to what extent,” he said, according to SFGate.
The belief is based on previous studies that have found nicotine inhaled into the lungs of mice can delay the clearance of the influenza virus.
While it is not confirmed what link, if any, exists between smoking and coronavirus, experts have confirmed that individuals who are older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or respiratory issues are at a higher risk of developing serious complications as a result of the virus.
“It is therefore reasonable to be concerned that compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking history, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could put people at risk for serious complications of Covid-19,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) states.
The organisation also adds that those who vape may also be at risk, as studies have found that vaping can harm lung health.
“Whether it can lead to COPD is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection,” the NIH says, adding that one study found that influenza virus-infected mice exposed to these aerosols were found to have enhanced tissue damage and inflammation.
So what about nicotine pouches?
Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses which attack the lungs.
Since nicotine pouches are purely oral nicotine delivery products, you are not inhaling any smoke or chemicals into your lungs. This is not to say that switching to nicotine pouches will prevent you from getting sick but you may be better equipped to fight off the virus and have a shorter recovery period if you are a non smoker/vaper.
Many smokers or vapers report a huge improvement to lung function and the easing of coughs and "tightness" of the chest, often after just a few days or quitting.
So if you are thinking of quitting smoking or vaping and don't think that going cold turkey will work for you, perhaps consider giving nicotine pouches a go.
EDIT (April 28th 2020): Emerging evidence may indicate that nicotine itself may help in protecting users from being infected with Covid 19.
The study at a major Paris hospital suggests a substance in tobacco – possibly nicotine – may be stopping patients who smoke from catching Covid-19. Clinical trials of nicotine patches are awaiting the approval of the country’s health authorities.
However, the researchers insisted they were not encouraging the population to take up smoking, which carries other potentially fatal health risks and kills 50% of those who take it up. While nicotine may protect those from the virus, smokers who have caught it often develop more serious symptoms because of the toxic effect of tobacco smoke on the lungs, they say.