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Why is the corona risk from smoking high?

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Smokers have an increased risk of severe Covid-19 complications. This also applies to people who used to smoke a lot. Find out why the corona risk from smoking is high and whether you should quit.

It is known that severe Covid-19 complication can be fatal for smokers. Studies also suggest that this also applies to people who have smoked a lot for a long time and are now non-smokers. Why is the corona risk from smoking so high?

Nevertheless, no matter how long you have been smoking, you should use the pandemic as an opportunity to quit cigarettes, advises internist and pulmonologist Prof. Stefan Andreas.

The World Health Organization recommends that too. “The risk of getting seriously ill and dying from Covid-19 is up to 50 percent higher for smokers than for others,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva. “Quitting smoking is therefore the best thing smokers can do to reduce both their risk of severe Covid-19 disease and the risk of developing cancer and heart and respiratory diseases.”

Why the cilia are important

corona risk from smoking

Because smoking damages the cilia, for example. “They are more or less the garbage disposal of the lungs. They carry mucus and bacterial residues upwards so that they can be coughed up,” explains the doctor. This is an important function in view of the possible coronavirus infestation of the lungs. If you stop smoking, the cilia recover fairly quickly.

“Quitting smoking lowers the risk of severe Covid 19 disease relatively quickly,” says Stefan Andreas. It doesn’t get better after a day, but it does get better day by day. “You should definitely not continue smoking because you say to yourself: It’s too late to quit anyway!” Says the pulmonologist.

What about e-cigarettes?

corona risk from smoking

In general, cigarette smoke causes inflammation in the airways. Viruses and bacteria are more likely to establish themselves there. “There is nothing in the lungs that is not harmed by smoking,” says the head of the Immenhausen Lung Clinic in Hesse, who is also a member of the advisory board of the German Lung Foundation.

E-cigarettes are also not good, according to the expert. Their consumption also increases the risk of severe courses in Covid-19.

The role of the pack years

One thing is clear: the longer and more you have smoked, the more – even permanent – damage you cause in your body. For this reason, former smokers also have an increased risk of having a severe coronavirus infection. The cilia, for example, get better quickly and the risk is reduced somewhat – but it remains higher compared to people who have never smoked.

Expressed in figures, it is around 30 percent higher than for people who have never smoked, says Prof. Andreas, even with former long-term smokers with 30 pack years (for example, 30 years one pack a day or 15 years two packs a day). Factors such as age – former long-term smokers are often quite old – or previous illnesses are not even included.

Pay attention to protection

corona risk from smoking

Precisely because their risk of a severe course is increased, current and former smokers should protect themselves particularly well against possible infection with the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, advises the doctor.

That means: Adhere to the recommended hygiene rules for keeping your distance, washing your hands and wearing a mask – and if possible, smokers should put their cigarettes aside for good.

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Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.
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