Current smoking, former smoking, and adverse outcome among hospitalized COVID-19 patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Konstantinos Farsalinos, Anastasia Barbouni, Konstantinos Poulas, Riccardo Polosa, Pasquale Caponnetto, Raymond Niaura

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and effects of current smoking on adverse outcomes among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Methods: A systematic review of the literature (PubMed) identified 18 (from a total of 1398) relevant studies. Pooled current smoking prevalence was compared with the gender-adjusted and gender and age-adjusted, population-based expected prevalence by calculating prevalence odds ratio (POR). The association between current, compared with non-current and former, smoking and adverse outcome was examined. A secondary analysis was performed by including 12 pre-publications (30 studies in total). All analyses were performed using random-effects meta-analysis. Results: Among 6515 patients, the pooled prevalence of current smoking was 6.8% [95% confidence interval (CI): 4.8–9.1%]. The gender-adjusted POR was 0.20 (95% CI: 0.16–0.25, p < 0.001), and the gender and age-adjusted POR was 0.24 (95% CI: 0.19–0.30, p < 0.001). Current smokers were more likely to have an adverse outcome compared with non-current smokers [odds ratio (OR): 1.53, 95%CI: 1.06–2.20, p = 0.022] but less likely compared with former smokers (OR: 0.42, 95% CI: 0.27–0.74, p = 0.003). When pre-publications were added (n = 10,631), the gender-adjusted POR was 0.27 (95% CI: 0.19–0.38, p < 0.001) and the gender and age-adjusted POR was 0.34 (95% CI: 0.24–0.48, p < 0.001). Conclusion: This meta-analysis of retrospective observational case series found an unexpectedly low prevalence of current smoking among hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Hospitalized current smokers had higher odds compared with non-current smokers but lower odds compared with former smokers for an adverse outcome. Smoking cannot be considered a protective measure for COVID-19. However, the hypothesis that nicotine may have a protective effect in COVID-19 that is partially masked by smoking-related toxicity and by the abrupt cessation of nicotine intake when smokers are hospitalized should be explored in laboratory studies and clinical trials using pharmaceutical nicotine products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease
StatePublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • adverse outcome
  • hospitalization
  • inflammation
  • nicotine
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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