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BACKGROUND: The relevance of tobacco smoking for infectious respiratory diseases (IRD) is uncertain. We investigated the associations of cigarette smoking with severe IRD resulting in hospitalization or death in UK adults. METHODS: We conducted a prospective study of cigarette smoking and risk of severe IRD in UK Biobank. The outcomes included pneumonia, other acute lower respiratory tract infections (OA-LRTI) and influenza. Multivariable Cox regression analyses were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) of severe IRD associated with smoking habits after adjusting for confounding factors. RESULTS: Among 341 352 participants with no prior history of major chronic diseases, there were 12 384 incident cases with pneumonia, 7054 with OA-LRTI and 795 with influenza during a 12-year follow-up. Compared with non-smokers, current smoking was associated with ⁓2-fold higher rates of severe IRD (HR 2.40 [2.27-2.53] for pneumonia, 1.99 [1.84-2.14] for OA-LRTI and 1.82 [95% confidence interval: 1.47-2.24] for influenza). Incidence of all severe IRDs were positively associated with amount of cigarettes smoked. The HRs for each IRD (except influenza) also declined with increasing duration since quitting. CONCLUSIONS: Current cigarette smoking was positively associated with higher rates of IRD and the findings extend indications for tobacco control measures and vaccination of current smokers for prevention of severe IRD.

Original publication




Journal article


J Public Health (Oxf)

Publication Date



health intelligence, morbidity and mortality, smoking