The One Thing You Should Do to Lower Your COVID Risk Right Now, Study Says

Smokers are in serious danger of contracting severe cases of coronavirus.

As you surely know by now, there are many things you can do in order to avoid being infected with coronavirus, including wearing a mask, staying at home as much as possible, and washing your hands frequently. But is there anything you can do to ensure that, if you do unfortunately contract the disease, your case will be relatively mild? There is no surefire form of protection—and people with underlying conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, cannot change their diagnoses—but researchers have found that there is a group of people who can take action right now to address their coronavirus risk: smokers. Quitting smoking may be the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19.

A study conducted at the University of California San Francisco's Benioff Children's Hospitals attempted to assess the risk coronavirus poses to people between the ages of 18 and 25. What the researchers found is that "smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased illness severity, ICU admission or death," lead author Sally Adams, PhD, of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, said in a statement. "Smoking may have significant effects in young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases."

The CDC guidelines also state that smoking likely increases risk of having a severe coronavirus case, among people of all ages. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees.

Woman holding broken cigarette

Early in the pandemic, information seemed to suggest that younger people didn't have much to fear from the disease, but the number of cases in that population is on the rise as of the last several weeks.

The UCSF researchers looked at representative data from a national pool and found that approximately one-third of people between the ages of 18 and 25 are considered to have a "medical vulnerability" as it pertains to coronavirus. The amount of smokers in the full sample outnumbers the amount of people with asthma, obesity, immune disorders, diabetes, liver conditions, or heart conditions. That means that more young people are vulnerable to the coronavirus due to smoking than any other condition.

"The risk of being medically vulnerable to severe disease is halved when smokers are removed from the sample," summed up senior author Charles Irwin Jr., MD, of the UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, in a statement. "Efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use among young adults would likely lower their vulnerability to severe disease."

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But tossing out your cigarette, cigar, or e-cigarette habit has a myriad of benefits, no matter how old you are—decreasing your risk of enduring a severe COVID case being only one. By quitting smoking, you can lower your blood pressure, decrease your risk of getting cancer, increase your lung function, and lower your risk of heart disease, among other health wins. And for more on where coronavirus is climbing, check out The CDC Warns That These Are the Next 10 Coronavirus Hotspots.


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