By Adam Johnson
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated people over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes are most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. While those groups of people remain at risk, there was a common misunderstanding that younger people were at little risk of serious illness from the virus.
As states began to reopen after shutdown orders, many young people flocked to bars and restaurants with little recourse of their exposure to the virus. The recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country are being attributed to young adults being the primary spreaders of the virus. An increase in cases and hospitalizations among young adults has changed the conversation about how vulnerable young adults actually are against COVID-19 illness. Hospitalizations among young adults have seen a nearly 300% increase from April to June, compared with a 139% increase in hospitalizations among older adults.
With young adults seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations, there is a renewed risk for the age group. Recent studies from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have found smoking to be a primary risk factor among younger adults for serious illness from COVID-19. The UCSF study found that one in three young adults faces severe illness from COVID-19. The study focused on the prevalence of smoking among young adults compared to other risk factors such as asthma, COPD and obesity. Young adults have typically lower rates of high-risk health conditions compared with older adults; however, the prevalence of smoking among young adults is higher than the prevalence of high-risk health conditions. The higher prevalence of smoking compared to other health conditions among young adults presents the highest risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19.
A second study from UCSF found that smoking was associated with nearly double the rate of COVID-19 progression, citing that pulmonary effects from smoking lead to more severe progression and illness from COVID-19. To see where smokers might be at the highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19, we here at QuoteWizard analyzed CDC smoking prevalence data from 2018 to see which states had the highest rates of smokers. Many of the states with the highest rates of smokers are also states that have seen significant spikes in new cases of COVID-19. Among those states with high rates of smokers and COVID-19 cases are Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. While smoking has decreased by 15% nationwide since 2012, it’s still among the highest-risk group of people for serious COVID-19 illness. While we’re seeing young adults contracting COVID-19 at higher rates in recent months, it’s the young adult smokers who face the highest risk from the virus.
QuoteWizard analyzed CDC data from 2018 to see which states had the highest rates of smokers, to get rankings to evaluate age-adjusted prevalence of current smokers in each state. Prevalence is an estimation of the smoking population in each state. Florida ranked 37th in the country, with a 15% rate. West Virgina ranked first, having the highest percentage of smokers with 26.8. Utah at 50th, had the lowest rate of smokers with 8%.