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A recent study suggests that smoking could contribute to complications brought on by COVID-19.

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“There has never been a better time to quit smoking to protect yourself from COVID-19,” Janice Leung, a respirologist who led the research, told Bloomberg.

The study, which was published in the European Respiratory Journal on Thursday, reported that smoking can elevate levels ACE-2, an enzyme that assists the virus in entering cells in the lungs.

The Bloomberg report said researchers found higher levels of ACE-2 in COVID-19 patients and smokers. The report also pointed out that the mortality rates among men in China were far higher than women. Men there smoke at a far higher percentage than women.

There are, of course, other factors known to increase the rate of deaths among  COVID-19 patients, including obesity, cancer, old age and diabetes.

The coronavirus has officially infected 1.4 million worldwide and killed 88,000. The virus has proved challenging for countries to contain because those infected may be asymptomatic.

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“Vaping and smoking are generally believed to increase the risk of COVID-19 mortality. Those who no longer smoke are also at risk due to previous lung damage, and even secondhand smoke could be a lung irritant that makes you more vulnerable,” Dr. Summer McGee, dean of the School of Health Sciences at the University of New Haven, said last month. “Generally, the healthier you are, the stronger your immune system, and the less likely you are to die from COVID-19. Of course, there are many exceptions to this rule where we are seeing younger, healthy people on ventilators and dying from COVID for reasons we do not yet understand.”

Fox News’ Hollie McKay contributed to this report

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sources: popular news from nbc news nbcnews.com and fox news foxnews.com