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Tobacco product use and the risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19: current understanding and recommendations for future research


Heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 progression underscores the urgent need to identify individual-level susceptibility factors that affect infection vulnerability and disease severity. Tobacco product use is a potential susceptibility factor. In this Personal View, we provide an overview of the findings of peer-reviewed, published studies relating tobacco product use to SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 outcomes, with most studies focusing on cigarette smoking in adults. Findings pertaining to the effects of tobacco product use on the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection are inconsistent. However, evidence supports a role for cigarette smoking in increasing the risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes, including hospital admission, progression in disease severity, and COVID-19-related mortality. We discuss the potential effects of tobacco use behaviour on SARS-CoV-2 transmission and infection, and highlight the pathophysiological changes associated with cigarette smoking that could promote SARS-CoV-2 infection and increased disease severity. We consider the biological mechanisms by which nicotine and other tobacco product constituents might affect immune and inflammatory responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Finally, we identify current knowledge gaps and suggest priorities for research to address acute and post-acute health outcomes of COVID-19 during and after the pandemic.

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