Home > COVID-19, smoking and inequalities: a study of 53 002 adults in the UK.

Jackson, Sarah E and Brown, Jamie and Shahab, Lion and Steptoe, Andrew and Fancourt, Daisy (2020) COVID-19, smoking and inequalities: a study of 53 002 adults in the UK. Tobacco Control, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055933.

External website: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2020/...

BACKGROUND: This study aimed to examine associations between smoking and COVID-19 relevant outcomes, taking into account the influence of inequalities and adjusting for potential confounding variables.

METHODS: Cross-sectional data were used from an online study of adults in the UK (n=53 002). Main outcome measures were confirmed and suspected COVID-19, worry about catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and adherence to protective behaviours. Covariates included age, sex, ethnicity, education (post-16 qualifications: yes/no), key worker status and comorbid health conditions.

RESULTS: Compared with never smokers (0.26% (95% CI 0.21% to 0.33%)), prevalence of confirmed COVID-19 was higher among current (0.56% (0.41% to 0.75%)) but not ex-smokers (0.19% (0.13% to 0.28%)). Associations were similar before (current: OR=2.14 (1.49-3.08); ex-smokers: OR=0.73 (0.47-1.14)) and after (current: OR=1.79 (1.22-2.62); ex-smokers: OR=0.85 (0.54-1.33)) adjustment. For current smokers, this was moderated by socio-economic position, with higher rates only seen in those without post-16 qualifications (OR=3.53 (2.04-6.10)). After including suspected cases, prevalence was higher among current smokers (11.2% (10.6% to 11.9%), OR=1.11 (1.03-1.20)) and ex-smokers (10.9% (10.4% to 11.5%), OR=1.07 (1.01-1.15)) than never smokers (10.2% (9.9% to 10.6%)), but remained higher only among ex-smokers after adjustment (OR=1.21 (1.13-1.29)). Current and ex-smokers had higher odds than never smokers of reporting significant stress about becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 (current: OR=1.34 (1.27-1.43); ex-smokers: OR=1.22 (1.16-1.28)). Adherence to recommendations to prevent spread of COVID-19 was high (96.3% (96.1% to 96.4%)), but lower among current than never smokers (OR=0.70 (0.62-0.78)).

CONCLUSIONS: In a population sample, current smoking was independently associated with self-reported confirmed COVID-19 infection. There were socio-economic disparities, with the association only apparent among those without post-16 qualifications. Smokers reported lower adherence to guidelines despite being more worried than non-smokers about catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

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