Smoking could pose a renewed threat amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving many people at an elevated risk of complications. Health officials have warned smokers may be more susceptible to the dangerous effects of the virus due to impaired lung function.How dangerous is smoking amid the coronavirus outbreak?
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease which primarily targets people's airways.
As a result, most people who come down with the illness report difficulty breathing and a new cough as symptoms.
These mirror complaints of heavy smokers, who may find themselves at an increased risk from the virus.
According to Professor Gordon Dougan, of Cambridge University's Department of Medicine, more study is needed on the effects of COVID-19 on smokers.
He said while there is not yet clear evidence of the effects smoking has, smokers do suffer from impaired lung function.
Professor Dougan said: "It is unlikely that anyone knows for sure yet how smoking might impact on susceptibility to COVID infection, as it is too early to call.
"We need to compare smokers versus no-smokers or countries with different incidences of smoking, and this will take time."
"However, we do know that smoking does impair normal lung function in many ways.
"The real danger lies in the lung and systems damage COVID causes.
"It will make people more vulnerable to secondary bacterial and viral infections.
"It is known that lung damage per se does that. Antibiotic resistance will then be an issue."
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"I would recommend that people stop smoking but, having lost my own sister to lung cancer, know it is not easy.
"I also respect people have a personal choice."
Other health experts have warned smokers are at an increased risk of developing illnesses such as COPD or cardiovascular disease, both risk factors for death amongst COVID-19 sufferers.
Ian Hall, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Nottingham, said smokers should consider dropping the habit, adding withdrawal will not make them more susceptible to the virus.
While tobacco may result in vulnerability to the effects of COVID-19, manufacturers have committed to snuffing the disease out.
British American Tobacco, which makes cigarette brands such as Lucky Strike and Dunhill, said it has a potential vaccine in the works.
The company said it was attempting to develop a tobacco-based vaccine with doses available by summer 2020.
They said: "If testing goes well, BAT is hopeful that, with the right partners and support from government agencies, between one and three million doses of the vaccine could be manufactured per week, beginning in June."