Tag Archives: COVID-19

Sunday Science Lesson: How are deaths counted (for pandemics, smoking, etc.)?

by Carl V Phillips

There has always been a lot of confusion about what counts as a death from smoking — or from the current pandemic, a war, or most anything else. Events of 2020 has caused a lot more people to realize they are confused about what it means. Typically people just recite numbers they hear without pausing to ask what they could possibly mean. Deaths-from-smoking statistics are recited like a factoid one might hear about particle physics. In both cases a moment’s thought would reveal to most people that they really have no idea what it even means. But unlike with a lot of physics, it is possible for most anyone to understand what the death counts mean and how they are properly estimated. Continue reading

Can smoking protect you against COVID-19?

by Carl V Phillips

Many of you will have already seen or heard about a paper by Farsalinos et al., in which they review some case series data from China and observe that for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the recorded smoking prevalence is far lower than would be expected given the population prevalence. The US CDC also released data a couple of days ago that shows the same pattern. If the data is representative and accurate (but note that there are compelling reasons to question whether either of those is true), this strongly suggests that smoking is hugely protective against COVID-19 inflection and/or the resulting disease progressing to the point that hospitalization is required.

We are not talking at the level of “well I guess smokers get a bit of compensation this year for all the health costs of smoking.” This is at the level of “everyone should take up smoking for a few months until the pandemic abates.” The protective effect implied by the data is absolutely huge. Continue reading