How The Deadly COVID-19 Virus Could Kill Marijuana And Cigarette Smokers At Higher Rates

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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The deadly COVID-19 virus could kill marijuana and cigarette smokers at higher rates. To lower your risk for serious complications, stop smoking, U.S. health officials say. Photo credit: Unsplash

If you want to lower your risk for serious complications from COVID-19, stop smoking, stop vaping and avoid secondhand smoke, according to health experts.

The virus is thought to spread person-to-person in close contact, including through coughs and sneezes. While older adults and those with underlying health conditions may be more at risk for severe symptoms, people of all ages have been infected with COVID-19 with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

The analysis of deaths from coronavirus in China shows that the odds of the disease progressing (including to death) were 14 times higher among people with a history of smoking compared to those who did not smoke. In China, men are more likely than women to die from the virus. Many more Chinese men smoke than women, according to the University of California San Francisco Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education.

Dr. Stanton A. Glantz, is the director of Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education. He conducts research on the health effects of e-cigarettes, tobacco control policies and cannabis policy.

When someone’s lungs are exposed to infections, the adverse effects of smoking or vaping are much more serious than among people who do not smoke or vape, Glantz wrote.

Vaping, like smoking, may harm lung health. Evidence is emerging to suggest that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported.

“Based on prior studies with other pulmonary infections, both bacterial and viral, it is highly likely that cigarette smoking and vaping will increase the risk of coronavirus pneumonia and increase its severity, though we don’t know to what extent,” said Dr. Michael Matthay, associate director of critical care medicine at the University of California San Francisco, in an  SFGate report.

People with compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking history, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could be at risk for serious complications of Covid-19, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reported. 



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The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients over age 80 is estimated to be 15 percent. Other factors that can increase risk include compromised immune systems, heart disease, high blood pressure and respiratory issues. “Obesity and smoking are other risk factors that I expect will increase the risk of serious complications,” said Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at UCSD and author of “The Perfect Predator.”

“We can make educated guesses based on past experience that people with compromised health due to smoking or vaping and people with opioid, methamphetamine, cannabis, and other substance use disorders could find themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 and its more serious complications,” NIH reported. “The research community should thus be alert to associations between COVID-19 case severity/mortality and substance use, smoking or vaping history, and smoking- or vaping-related lung disease. We must also ensure that patients with substance use disorders are not discriminated against if a rise in COVID-19 cases places added burden on our healthcare system.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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In the U.S., there have been more than 3,774 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 69 deaths, according to estimates from Johns Hopkins University. Simultaneously, the CDC is reporting 1,629 cases and 41 deaths — its most recent data as of 10 a.m. on March 13, 2020. The CDC says it updates its site at noon Mondays through Fridays.

Limited availability of diagnostic tests means that the numbers of U.S. coronavirus cases are likely far higher than that, Forbes reported. 

While other countries such as South Korea have systems in place to test a large section of the public, the mechanisms for doing so don’t exist in the U.S. “We’re not set up for that,” said Dr. Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) during Congressional testimony earlier in March. “Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.”

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