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Original research
Current smoking and COVID-19 risk: results from a population symptom app in over 2.4 million people


Background The association between current tobacco smoking, the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 and the severity of illness is an important information gap.

Methods UK users of the Zoe COVID-19 Symptom Study app provided baseline data including demographics, anthropometrics, smoking status and medical conditions, and were asked to log their condition daily. Participants who reported that they did not feel physically normal were then asked by the app to complete a series of questions, including 14 potential COVID-19 symptoms and about hospital attendance. The main study outcome was the development of ‘classic’ symptoms of COVID-19 during the pandemic defined as fever, new persistent cough and breathlessness and their association with current smoking. The number of concurrent COVID-19 symptoms was used as a proxy for severity and the pattern of association between symptoms was also compared between smokers and non-smokers.

Results Between 24 March 2020 and 23 April 2020, data were available on 2 401 982 participants, mean (SD) age 43.6 (15.1) years, 63.3% female, overall smoking prevalence 11.0%. 834 437 (35%) participants reported being unwell and entered one or more symptoms. Current smokers were more likely to report symptoms suggesting a diagnosis of COVID-19; classic symptoms adjusted OR (95% CI) 1.14 (1.10 to 1.18); >5 symptoms 1.29 (1.26 to 1.31); >10 symptoms 1.50 (1.42 to 1.58). The pattern of association between reported symptoms did not vary between smokers and non-smokers.

Interpretation These data are consistent with people who smoke being at an increased risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19.

  • tobacco and the lung
  • viral infection
  • respiratory infection
  • clinical epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Anonymised research data will be shared with third parties via the centre for Health Data Research UK ( Data updates can be found on

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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