The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has spawned massive research to find solutions for the COVID-19 disease. As part of these efforts, in a recent development, researchers across the world have mooted the idea of applying nicotine patches for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 positive patients. In fact, there have been several reports claiming that researchers are about to embark on trials with nicotine patches. While smoking is traditionally a known risk factor for respiratory infections and associated with an increase in the severity of respiratory diseases, are nicotine patches, usually used to wean away from the habit of smoking, useful for COVID-19 patients?
Moreover, such claims also raise questions on risk factors that smokers have towards developing COVID-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) undertook a review on smoking, nicotine and its possible impact on COVID-19, which were taken-up by public health experts across the globe.
Based on the review, the health organisation found that ‘smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers’. The WHO also urged ‘researchers, scientists and even the media outlets to be cautious about amplifying unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of COVID-19’.
Why smokers are vulnerable towards severe form of COVID-19? The WHO in its statement on tobacco use and COVID-19 said, ‘COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.
Tobacco is also a major risk factor for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death’.
Nicotine replacement therapies, such as gum and patches are designed to help smokers quit tobacco. There is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.