(NEW YORK) — Smokers and vapers are more likely to have a severe case of COVID-19 or die of the disease, a new study finds.
People who reported use of tobacco products prior to their hospitalization were 39% more likely to be put on mechanical ventilation than non-smokers.
What’s more, they were 45% more likely to die.
Although it’s well-known that smoking and vaping damages the lungs and suppresses the immune system, making people more susceptible to COVID-19 and less likely to fight off the illness, there is limited information on the link between smoking and COVID-19 severity.
For the study, published in scientific journal PLOS One, the team looked at data from the American Heart Association COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease registry including more than 4,000 people over age 18 who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between January 2020 and March 2021.
People were classified as smokers if they reported current use of traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes. However, the study did not evaluate if there was a difference in risk level between those who vape versus those who smoke.
Researchers — from the AHA Tobacco Regulation Center and the University of Louisville, in Kentucky — found smoking or vaping were linked to more COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations regardless of the patients’ age, sex, race/ethnicity or medical history.
However, some subgroups were more likely to be at risk of death from COVID-19 than others.
Smokers between ages 18 and 59 were more likely to die from the diseases than those who are age 60 and older, despite COVID’s propensity to affect the elderly.
Additionally, white smokers had a higher risk of COVID death than Black and Hispanic patients, groups that have been disproportionately affected by the virus and its complications. However, Hispanic patients were more likely to be put on a ventilator.
Smoking was also linked to a higher risk of death among smokers with underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease as well as those receiving anticoagulants before their hospitalization.
“In general, people who smoke or vape tend to have a higher prevalence of other health conditions and risk factors that could play a role in how they are impacted by COVID-19,” first author Dr. Aruni Bhatangar, a professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville, said in a statement. “These findings provide the clearest evidence to date that people who smoke or vape have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 and dying as a result of [COVID] infection.”
The team says its study has some limitations including lack of complete smoking history for participants and no information on how many cigarettes or other tobacco products the patients used per day or for how many years.
The study’s authors did not immediately reply to ABC News’ request for comment.
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