6 votes

Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of December 5

This thread is posted weekly, and is intended as a place for more-casual discussion of the coronavirus and questions/updates that may not warrant their own dedicated topics. Tell us about what the situation is like where you live!

1 comment

  1. skybrian
    The great Covid and smoking cover-up (spiked) [...] [...] (I haven't looked into this, I just read the article after it was linked on Hacker News.)

    The great Covid and smoking cover-up (spiked)

    After a brief burst of incredulous coverage in the spring of 2020, the media soon lost interest in the hypothesis that smokers are less likely to get Covid-19, but dozens of studies have been quietly published in the past two-and-a-half years which confirm it. I have been listing them on my blog and last week added the hundredth study. It seems a good time to stop. By any reasonable standard, the jury is in.

    Of the 100 studies from around the world, 87 of them show a statistically significant reduction in SARS-CoV-2 infection risk among current smokers as compared to non-smokers. Seven of them found no statistically significant association either way. Two of them found mixed results. Four of them found a positive association between smoking and infection, although three of these looked at people with a genetic propensity to smoke rather than at smokers themselves.


    The findings are remarkably consistent, with smokers typically being 50 per cent less likely to catch the virus. Some of the researchers express surprise about this in the text of their study, others acknowledge that many other studies have found the same thing. Some of them discuss the possible biological mechanisms behind it, others do not mention the association at all. Some of them are clearly mortified to have reached a ‘pro-smoking’ conclusion.


    If a similar body of evidence showed that smoking increased the risk of Covid-19 (or any other disease) it would have been considered settled science long ago. Instead, the evidence of a protective effect has been ignored, downplayed and denied. The issue only surfaced in the media twice after the spring of 2020. First, when a study was retracted because two of its authors had failed to disclose some rather tenuous links to the tobacco industry. And secondly, when a study was published in Thorax claiming that smokers were more likely to get Covid-19. This was one of the three studies that did not look at smokers [...]

    Those two news stories were enough to plant the idea in the public’s mind that the ‘smoker’s paradox’ was a myth generated by cigarette companies. Anyone who casually looks for information about it online will get the same impression. Google ‘smoking Covid-19’ and the top listing is an opinion piece in a medical journal by a paediatrician, who describes the association between smoking and reduced SARS-CoV-2 risk as ‘bizarre’ and ‘unhelpful’. The second listing is a webpage from the British Heart Foundation, titled ‘Does smoking increase or reduce your risk from coronavirus?’, which says ‘we don’t know for sure’ but strongly implies that it increases it. The third website is the Thorax study and the fourth website is a World Health Organisation webpage from June 2020, which claims there are ‘no peer-reviewed studies that have evaluated the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among smokers’.

    (I haven't looked into this, I just read the article after it was linked on Hacker News.)

    3 votes