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Smoking increases risk of hospitalization, death from COVID-19, study says

Researchers with the Cleveland Clinic looked at 7,000 COVID-19 patients and found that "heavy smokers" were more likely to have severe symptoms.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — We're learning more about how health problems caused by smoking can create an uphill battle for those fighting COVID-19.

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic looked at more than 7,000 people with COVID-19 and the results showed that people who smoke have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from the virus.

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Heavy smokers, categorized as people who smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for more than 30 years, had the highest risk. This group was nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized and the risk of death was nearly twice as likely compared to people who never smoked.

"We saw that the more an individual smokes, the more likely that person is going to be hospitalized when he, or she, gets infected with COVID," said Dr. Joe Zein, a respiratory specialist who led the research.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States, despite a significant decline in the number of people who smoke. More than 16 million Americans have at least one disease caused by smoking, which amounts to $170 billion in direct medical costs.

Dr. Zein said he hopes that research like this will help more people quit smoking.

"People who have good outcomes from COVID are people who are fit and healthy, and if smoking is something that you've been entertaining to stop for a long time, I think that's a reason why you should...stop smoking," he said.

Dr. Zein said it's never too late to quit; he encourages people to talk to a medical professional about programs and products that may help. There are additional resources available for Kentucky residents at quitnowkentucky.org.

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