A new study shows that smoking doubles the number of young adults at high risk for severe COVID-19.
Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) examined 8,405 respondents to the National Health Interview Survey, ages 18 to 25, for the serious COVID-19 risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
They found that 32 percent of the respondents had at least one of the risk factors, but half of them were in the vulnerable group due to a single risk factor: smoking within the past 30 days, aAccording to the peer review study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on Monday.
When this risk factor was removed, the proportion of medically vulnerable young people dropped to 1
“Recent evidence suggests that smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased disease severity, intensive care admission, or death,” said Sally Adams, the UCSF professor who led the Study headed in a statement. “Smoking can have a significant impact on young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases.”
The study comes like cases in young adults largely drive a nationwide top in COVID-19, which was attributed to non-compliance with social distance regulations.
While people over the age of 65 are still hospitalized much more often and die of the disease than young adults, hospitalization rates for young people also appear to be increasing. According to CDC data, the hospitalization rate for 18- to 29-year-olds tripled from May 2 to July 4, while the rate for those over 65-year-old only doubled.
The study found that the risk factor that threatened the second highest number of young people for severe COVID-19 was asthma, which affected 9 percent of the respondents. Around 20 percent said they had smoked in the past 30 days.
While the CDC has included smoking tobacco or cigars as a risk factor within the past 30 days, the researchers have also considered the use of e-cigarettes due to their harmful effects on the respiratory tract.
The study also found that there are 30 percent fewer young women in the high-risk group compared to 33 percent among young men, mainly due to lower smoking rates among women.
Despite nationwide race differences in overall case and mortality rates, white adolescents were more likely than black, Spanish and Asian adolescents to be in the medically vulnerable group – an “unexpected” finding that the researchers attributed mainly to higher smoking rates among whites.