Smoking Status, Nicotine Medication, Vaccination, and COVID-19 Hospital Outcomes: Findings from the COVID EHR Cohort at the University of Wisconsin (CEC-UW) Study.



Available evidence is mixed concerning associations between smoking status and COVID-19 clinical outcomes. Effects of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and vaccination status on COVID-19 outcomes in smokers are unknown.


Electronic health record data from 104 590 COVID-19 patients hospitalized February 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021 in 21 U.S. health systems were analyzed to assess associations of smoking status, in-hospital NRT prescription, and vaccination status with in-hospital death and ICU admission.


Current (n = 7764) and never smokers (n = 57 454) did not differ on outcomes after adjustment for age, sex, race, ethnicity, insurance, body mass index, and comorbidities. Former (vs never) smokers (n = 33 101) had higher adjusted odds of death (aOR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.06-1.17) and ICU admission (aOR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.04-1.11). Among current smokers, NRT prescription was associated with reduced mortality (aOR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.50-0.82). Vaccination effects were significantly moderated by smoking status; vaccination was more strongly associated with reduced mortality among current (aOR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.16-0.66) and former smokers (aOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.39-0.57) than for never smokers (aOR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.57, 0.79). Vaccination was associated with reduced ICU admission more strongly among former (aOR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.66-0.83) than never smokers (aOR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.79-0.97).


Former but not current smokers hospitalized with COVID-19 are at higher risk for severe outcomes. SARS-CoV-2 vaccination is associated with better hospital outcomes in COVID-19 patients, especially current and former smokers. NRT during COVID-19 hospitalization may reduce mortality for current smokers.


Prior findings regarding associations between smoking and severe COVID-19 disease outcomes have been inconsistent. This large cohort study suggests potential beneficial effects of nicotine replacement therapy on COVID-19 outcomes in current smokers and outsized benefits of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in current and former smokers. Such findings may influence clinical practice and prevention efforts and motivate additional research that explores mechanisms for these effects.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Piasecki, Thomas M, Stevens S Smith, Timothy B Baker, Wendy S Slutske, Robert T Adsit, Daniel M Bolt, Karen L Conner, Steven L Bernstein, et al. (2022). Smoking Status, Nicotine Medication, Vaccination, and COVID-19 Hospital Outcomes: Findings from the COVID EHR Cohort at the University of Wisconsin (CEC-UW) Study. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. p. ntac201. 10.1093/ntr/ntac201 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



James Davis

Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. James Davis is a practicing physician of Internal Medicine, and serves as the Medical Director for Duke Center for Smoking Cessation, Director of the Duke Smoking Cessation Program and Co-Director of the Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Credentialing Program.  His research focuses on development of new pharmaceutical treatments for smoking cessation.  He is principal investigator on several trials including a study on “adaptive” smoking cessation and several trials on new medications for smoking cessation. The new medications leverage more novel neurobiological mechanisms - NMDA receptor antagonism, nicotinic receptor antagonism, which impact addiction-based learning and cue response. Additionally, Dr. Davis serves as co-investigator on trials on lung cancer screening, e-cigarettes, minor nicotine alkaloids, imaging trials, lung function trials and others. Dr. Davis leads the Duke Smoke-Free Policy Initiative, is co-author on a national  tobacco dependence treatment guideline, and provides training in tobacco dependence treatment for the Duke School of Medicine, Duke Internal Medicine, Family Practice and Psychiatry residency programs.

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