Why Smokers Are At Risk If Infected with Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19). Bad News For Smokers - DoctorOnCall

Nowadays, the transmission of COVID-19 has not reached the endpoint yet since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019. This pandemic has killed many lives and the number of cases of infection continues to increase every single day. Those who have higher risk of getting serious outcomes when contracting COVID-19 that can bring death, may include old people (65 years old and above), people with a chronic medical condition, and even smokers. How can smokers have a high risk? Is this statement true? Follow the explanation throughout this article.

Why Are Smokers More Susceptible in Contracting COVID-19?

Tobacco cigarettes and aerosols from electronic cigarettes can affect the human respiratory tract and the immune system. A weakened immune system can increase the risk of bacterial and viral infections. Thus, smokers are more susceptible to various infectious diseases, especially the virus of COVID-19 pandemic that is currently affecting the whole world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco users whether users  cigarettes, shisha, cigars or heated tobacco products are said to be more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. This is due to the act of smoking that involves contact of fingers with the lips as well as cigarettes that may be contaminated, is believed to increase the risk of virus transmission from hand to mouth, especially if you rarely wash your hands. 

Besides, shisha users who often share the pipe or mouthpiece can cause the virus to spread easily. Other than pipe sharing, smoking shisha with a huge circle of family or friends also increases the risk of infection due to lack of social distancing during this activity. 

Why is COVID-19 More Dangerous to Smokers?

Cigarette smoke affects the respiratory tract and interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. Cigarettes also can cause various lung diseases such as bacterial infections (pneumonia), bronchitis, emphysema, and even lung cancer. COVID-19 will attack the respiratory organs. The bad condition of the respiratory airways including lungs, affected by smoking will make it easier for the virus to infect and develop more severe outcomes of COVID-19.  As we all know that COVID-19 is a contagious disease that attacks the human body, especially the lungs. 

A study in the United States showed that COVID-19 symptoms among smokers or those who had a smoking history were found to be more serious. The analysis also reported higher mortality rates among the two. This matter also received serious attention following the statistics presented by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) found that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 among smokers is higher than non-smokers which is 17.6 percent compared to 12.1 percent. According to the MOH, preliminary research and analysis related to smoking history and non-communicable disease risk factors were conducted on 86 people out of the total number of COVID-19 patients who had died in Malaysia found that 17 people or 19.8% of them were smokers. 

What About Vape or Electronic Cigarettes?

Evidence of a relationship between the use of vape or electronic cigarettes with COVID-19 has not been found. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the available evidence shows that the systems of both vape (without nicotine) and electronic cigarettes (with nicotine) can affect heart and lung health. Because electronic smoking habits also involve the hand being brought into the mouth, the use of both devices can increase the rate of infection as well as increase the risk of more serious infections. Find out if you are dependent on nicotine with this quiz!

Complications of COVID-19 in Smokers

The World Health Organization (WHO) on 27 May 2020 stated that smokers are at higher risk for more serious complications if infected with the COVID-19 virus. This statement is also supported by several studies conducted abroad. 

  • Risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19

Smokers have a higher risk of hospitalization if infected with the COVID-19 virus. According to the WHO, seven observational studies found that smokers accounted for 1.4 to 18.5 percent of adults admitted to the hospital. A study conducted by Emami, showed the data analysis of 2986 patients found that the rate of smokers admitted to the hospital was 7.6 percent (3.8% to 12.4%). Meanwhile, data analysis by Farsalinos found that 6.5 percent (1.4% to 12.6%) of the 5960 patients treated in the hospital were smokers. 

In addition, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found an increased risk of hospitalization due to severe COVID-19 complications for smokers if infected with the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, the risk of death in the hospital also increases. Patients who are smokers are also more likely to experience developing severe symptoms that require the help of respirators in the hospital.

 Complications of COVID-19 are also more serious amongst smokers who also suffer from diseases involving the lungs such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a disease that refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A journal from Hindawi reported that individuals with comorbidities are at high risk for serious complications due to COVID-19 infection.  

  • Risk of death from COVID-19

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a strong relationship between smoking status and the risk of patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the use of ventilator aids and even death. Another study conducted on 226 patients in Toronto, Canada also reported the same thing. 


If you are a smoker and the facts about the effects of smoking that have been advertised so far do not scare you, we hope the description of the smoker's risk of contracting this COVID-19 pandemic can open your eyes. Although no direct studies on the risk of passive smokers and COVID-19 have been conducted, many other studies have proven the dangers of smoking to those around. Quitting smoking is the best way for your health and that of your loved ones. Get help from a doctor to quit smoking.

Thinking of quitting? Consult our doctor for FREE!


*The free doctor consult initiative is supported and fully funded by DoctorOnCall