The smoker’s paradox with covid: scientists have denied the protective effect of tobacco

A growing body of research confirms that smokers are at increased risk

People tend to look for an excuse for their bad habits. And manufacturers of goods for such “hobbies” – to invest effort and money in maintaining the delusions that are beneficial to them. It seems that a similar “trick with the ears” has once again turned out to be the tobacco lobby. The occasion turned up very weighty – the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the spring of last year, the smoking population of the Earth began and continues to convey to each other the good news: tobacco protects against infection with the “crown”! A group of French researchers published a preprint (that is, a scientific article that has not passed an independent peer review) with a sensation: among patients with COVID-19, smokers are much less than the national average. From which, of course, the conclusion followed: cigarettes protect against infection.

The authors of the article interviewed 340 hospitalized covid patients, whose average age was 66 years. And 139 more people were treated on an outpatient basis, at the age of about 44 years. The number of those who admitted to smoking in both groups was significantly lower than the official statistics of tobacco users in France. Note that the results of this study could not successfully pass independent verification and did not make it into serious scientific journals.

More fortunate is the Mexican-Greek team of analysts. They examined a database of case histories of several tens of thousands of covid patients in Mexico City. And they also came to the conclusion: there are fewer smokers among patients than among the population on average. True, this did not appear in the title of the study. The authors announced that, in general, they are studying various factors that influence the risk of COVID-19 disease. This work was published in the influential European Respiratory Journal in July 2020. However, the post has now been withdrawn (that is, removed from the journal).

The Mexican study revealed serious methodological flaws. Simply put – defects that do not allow the conclusions to be considered reliable. One of the most striking violations is a conflict of interest. Namely, two out of five members of the research team turned out to be … associated with the interests of the tobacco industry. What they modestly kept silent about. Jose Manuel Mayer is a full-time consultant to tobacco companies on tobacco harm reduction – now it is a fashionable area of ​​cigarette rehabilitation. The second author, Konstantinos Pulas, was in a senior position at a nongovernmental organization funded by the tobacco industry at the time of the study.