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What are the risks of smokers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Quitting smoking always creates additional stress, but this is the very case when you need to be patient and say goodbye to this bad habit

Ground Report | New Delhi: Direct exposure to cigarette smoke increases the number of SARS-CoV-2 infected cells, American biologists have created a stem cell model of the respiratory tract to learn how Covid-19 affects the body of an infected smokers. The results are disappointing: a bad habit increases the risk of a severe course of the disease because it helps block the activity of interferons. These proteins are secreted by the cells of the body in response to the invasion of a pathogen, and tobacco smoke reduces the response of the respiratory tract to them. The scientists stated that smoking leads to a threefold increase in the number of cells infected with the virus.

This is far from the first convincing evidence that the myth of the protective properties of tobacco smoke is very dangerous. In late June, the WHO published a review of peer-reviewed studies that, in one way or another, assessed the role of nicotine in the severity of the disease, drawing an unambiguous conclusion: smokers are at increased risk during a pandemic. The survey indicates that up to 18.5% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 smoke regularly.

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Later, scientists from the University of California at San Francisco (The University of California), assessed the risk of a severe course of infection among, taking into account various factors, among young people 18-25 years old. It turned out that almost every third participant in the study (32%) from a medical point of view has an increased risk of serious complications and mortality from COVID-19 if infected. When the researchers excluded smokers from the analysis, the percentage of young people vulnerable to infection was halved to 16%.

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Should you quit smoking right now?

Quitting smoking always creates additional stress, but this is the very case when you need to be patient and say goodbye to this bad habit. Even with an impressive smoking history, you can improve your health pretty quickly. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), blood carbon dioxide levels return to normal after just 12 hours without cigarettes. Lung function improves significantly after a few months, and within a year the risk of coronary heart disease is halved. 

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The official website of the American Cancer Society offers the following timeline for life after smoking:

  • After 15 minutes, blood pressure decreases, heart rate drops. 
  • After 12 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood returns to normal. 
  • After 2 weeks to 3 months, blood circulation and lung function improve.
  • Shortness of breath and cough decrease after 1-9 months.
  • After 1 year, the risk of heart attack is reduced by 50%. 
  • After 5 years, the risk of many types of cancer is halved.
  • After 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a smoker.
  • After 15 years, the risk of heart attack becomes almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked.

And even after quitting tobacco, the taste of food becomes more pleasant, the breath becomes fresher, clothes and hair smell better, and you also don’t have to constantly think about how to smoke if you are in a non-smoking area. Just weigh the risks of smoking versus the benefits of quitting the habit.

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