Examining a study that alleges “Nicotine Prevents COVID -19 Symptoms”
Remember the days when doctors would prescribe pregnant women cigarettes to keep them calm? Expectant mothers needed to quiet down those “pre-baby jitters” and Phillip Morris paid doctors to say that their cigarettes were just the product for the job! Good thing those days are over… right?
Well, maybe not. We have known for years now that the different industries can be insidiously creative with their marketing strategies, often funding scientific studies to manipulate the science to show whatever outcome they want.
A new study has come out that immediately shot up some red flags. It claimed that cigarette users, have a much lower risk for developing severe COVID -19 symptoms. So, we decided to do a deeper dive into figuring out if there was any credibility to this study, or if it seemed like something to be weary of, because at Prevention Plus, we believe that science is an important factor in understanding addiction.
We look for studies that are determined to show the truth whether they put drugs/alcohol in a good or bad light. While we are very much against youth using drugs and alcohol, when we read studies, we never endorse studies that are biased on either side. So, with that said, let’s do a deeper dive into this study.
How they did the study
Researchers studied patients who had been hospitalized due to severe COVID -19 symptoms, and patients who were still at home having mild to no COVID -19 symptoms. They then asked them about their current smoking habits. After the data was collected, they excluded a number of participants from being included in the final results for things like “missing medical charts,” and “inability to confirm smoking status.”
Of the 482 participants who were selected to be included in the final data, the rate of daily smokers included was about 5% of total participants. They then asked the patients questions about how severe they felt their symptoms were, etc.
They concluded that essentially smoking was shown to have a positive correlation with less severe COVID -19 symptoms. While they stated that they were not sure which compound in cigarettes created this correlation, they believed it was nicotine.
It should also be noted that many of the non-smokers who participated were healthcare workers, which put them at higher risk of developing COVID-19.
Our analysis of the study
It really shouldn’t take a deep dive into this study to see that there are huge red flags with it. First of all, the study was preformed on a small, non-diverse population, which also included hardly any smokers. Many of the participants were healthcare workers which would put them in a completely different situation from the general population because they are more likely to develop COVID -19 in a hospital as opposed to in the community. Nearly all of the data which was collected was collected via survey which is a very unreliable way to collect information due to the fact that people can often misremember or misreport information about themselves, especially surrounding the social stigma of smoking.
I was obviously concerned with the red flags I saw while reading this study, and decided to do a little digging. I researched the 14 authors associated with the study and many of them had other controversial studies publish. A few of them even going so far as to write “response letters” to people being critical of their studies, which read more like an “angry clap-back” than a response from a licensed physician. The final huge red flag for me was that throughout all of my digging into this study, I could find absolutely no information on where their funding came from. Usually, funding information will be readily available for scientific studies. But after hours of searching, I was able to find no information. This does not mean necessarily that the study was funded in an unsavory manner; just another thing to be weary about.
It’s important in this time to be critical, to think for ourselves, to research things that may seem a little off. As we have said before, we are always looking for the latest, most scientifically accurate data that is out there. We are not going to say conclusively that this study is “wrong.” However, the way the study was conducted does raise some red flags.
We hope that more studies will look into the relationship between smoking, vaping, or not, and the coronavirus. And when studies are funded and conducted in a non-biased way, we will look forward to whatever conclusions those studies draw.