The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that smoking tobacco cigarettes will not protect against the novel coronavirus, Business Insider reports. The warning comes after a French study seemed to suggest that smokers were better off against the pandemic.
Back in April, a French team released a study that noted that, of the 482 COVID-19 patients seen in a six-week period at one particular hospital, only 4.4 percent were daily tobacco smokers. Among an unknown number of patients who had the disease but weren’t sick enough to require hospitalization, only 5.3 percent smoked tobacco daily.
By comparison, according to USA Today, France has one of the highest rates of smokers, with an estimated 27 percent of the adult population lighting up daily.
“[The research] strongly suggests that daily smokers have a very much lower probability of developing symptomatic or severe SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the team noted.
Further, the team suggested that it was nicotine — the chemical in tobacco that smokers crave — that might have played a role in the findings, such as preventing the virus from adhering to the infected person’s cells in some way.
In fact, so convinced was the French team of their hypothesis that two members published a follow-up article the very next day, calling for studies into the use of nicotine as a treatment for COVID-19.
Van Kerkhove, who serves as the COVID-19 technical lead at the World Health Organization, says that the conclusions of the French team are not true. In fact, the exact opposite is true, he says.
“There are a number of studies out there that have been published that have found that smoking leads to more severe disease, the development of severe disease, and puts people at higher risk for being put on a ventilator, being in an ICU, and for dying,” Van Kerkhove said.
Indeed, as previously reported by The Inquisitr, the cardiovascular community has warned that smoking tobacco or marijuana, or ingesting either substance via a vaporizer, puts the user at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19. Among other things, ingesting burning oil or burning plant matter inflames the lungs, increasing the chance of infection.
However, the French are still committed to exploring nicotine as a COVID-19 therapy, as the country’s scientists intend to proceed with studies, delivering the chemical to test subjects via a patch. The French government, in response, banned online sales of nicotine replacement patches and required pharmacies to limit how much consumers could buy. This was done in order to prevent people from “over-consuming,” as well to limit the availability of the product to people who are using the packages to legitimately trying to give up cigarettes.