Kick the butt: Smoking can worsen severity of Covid infection – Economic Times

Last Updated on November 19, 2020 by

LOS ANGELES: Using lab-grown
lung tissue, scientists have pinpointed how
smoking cigarettes facilitates more
severe lung infection by the
novel coronavirus, an advance that may lead to new therapeutic strategies to help reduce smokers’ chances of developing
severe COVID-19.

According to the researchers, including those from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US, the findings also shed more light on the COVID-19 risks for smokers.

While several studies of COVID-19 patients have indicated that current smokers are at increased risk of severe infection and death due to the coronavirus infection, they said the reasons have not been entirely clear.

In the current research, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the scientists recreated what happens when the airways of a current smoker are infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers utilised a platform known as an air-liquid interface culture, which is grown from unspecialised cells called human airway stem cells, and closely replicated how these behave and function in humans.

The airways, which carry air breathed in from the nose and mouth to the lungs, are the body’s first line of defense against airborne pathogens like viruses, bacteria and smoke, the scientists said.

“Our model replicates the upper part of the airways, which is the first place the virus hits,” said Brigitte Gomperts, a co-author of the study from UCLA.

“This is the part that produces mucus to trap viruses, bacteria and toxins and contains cells with finger-like projections that beat that mucus up and out of the body,” Gomperts added.

World No Tobacco Day: Smoking Can Hurt Eyes, Bones And Brain

Thrill Kills

Most smokers believe smoking is cool. No matter how you indulge in it, tobacco is harmful to your health. Tobacco contains over 7,000 toxins and 70 known carcinogens (chemicals that increase cancer risk) and can damage nearly every organ of the body.

Dr Sachin Kumar, Senior Consultant – Pulmonology at Sakra World Hospital explains how smoking affects every part of your body.

The next time you are tempted to take a drag, just pause for a minute and think of the consequences of your indulgence.


Smoking usually helps smokers relax on a short-term basis. But, it comes at a huge price in the long-term. Smoking results in addiction and anxiety. It alters the brain chemistry and can increase the risk of stroke.

Mouth and Throat

Cancer of mouth and throat is common among smokers. In addition, smoking can also result in gum disease, premature tooth loss, discolouration of teeth, etc.


Lung cancer, one of the leading causes of death in the world, develops due to smoking. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which causes difficulty in breathing is another common cause of death among smokers. Chronic Bronchitis, the inflammation of the bronchial tubes which also results in difficulty in breathing, is caused primarily due to smoking.

Smoking also increases the risk of other infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.


Smoking is one of the leading causes for heart diseases. Regular smokers, as well as second-hand/passive smokers, are at high risk of heart disease.

Tobacco also contributes to heart conditions by reducing the good cholesterol (HDL) and increasing the bad cholesterol (LDL and Triglycerides) in the body.

Since these stem cells were taken from the lungs of healthy, non-smoking tissue donors, the researchers replicated the effects of smoking by exposing the airway cultures to cigarette smoke for three minutes per day over four days.

“This type of model has been used to study lung diseases for over a decade and has been shown to mimic the changes in the airway that you would see in a person who currently smokes,” Gomperts explained.

The researchers then infected the cultures exposed to cigarette smoke — along with identical cultures that had not been exposed — with live SARS-CoV-2 virus and compared the two groups.

In the models exposed to smoke, the scientists reported between two and three times more infected cells.

According to the researchers, smoking may have resulted in more severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, at least in part, by blocking the activity of immune system messenger proteins called interferons.

They said interferons play a critical role in the body’s early immune response by triggering infected cells to produce proteins to attack the virus, summoning additional support from the immune system, and alerting uninfected cells to prepare to fight the virus.

“If you think of the airways like the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in these walls. Smoking reduces the natural defenses and that allows the virus to set in,” Gomperts said.

This Wellness Guide Is What You Need To Quit To Smoking & Drinking For Good

Use Your Imagination

Cigarettes don’t contain just nicotine but a range of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals you wouldn’t want near your body. Next time you reach for a cigarette that looks quite appealing, imagine yourself licking tarmac, chewing on rubber cement or drinking a cocktail of battery acid, lighter fuel and nail varnish remover.

Talk It Out

If you get the opportunity to talk to a smoker who has developed diseases as a result of smoking, knowing their stories might help put off your habit.

Yes, I Quit Smoking

To quit, go public! Telling everyone will keep you motivated. Also put aside cigarette money for something special, like a personal reward or charity.

It’s easier never to start than it is to quit. Spread the message.

Be Honest, Be Confident

For alcohol, Dr Harper says:

Don’t wait for warning signs. They may not come. Be honest with yourself about your consumption and start putting in dry days in your diary.

Fight Back Your Triggers

Recognise your triggers and work on them. For instance, if you reach for the bottle when your kids are asleep, find ways to keep yourself occupied and not be tempted. Offer to drive when you go out — it gives you the perfect excuse to not drink.

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