- Spoiler alert: Don’t try this at home.
Gay artist David Hockney has again proved his defiance by insisting that smoking helps protect people from COVID-19.
It comes as medical professionals advise people to quit smoking. They say smokers will find it harder to recover from the virus.
The 82-year-old is indisputably one of the world’s greatest artists and one of the LGBT+ community’s greatest creative minds. But his creativity this time may have gone too far.
Hockney wrote to UK tabloid newspaper The Daily Mail – famous for spreading hatred against LGBT+ people and immigrants – to argue his case.
He suggests ‘smokers have developed an immune system to the virus’.
In particular he points to research from China. It appeared to show that fewer smokers were treated for COVID-19 in hospitals than you’d expect from the number of smokers in the population.
Hockney concludes: ‘With all these figures coming out, it’s beginning to look like that to me.’
And he adds: ‘I’m serious.’
World Health Organization disagrees
However, medical opinion differs sharply from Hockney’s view.
Experts say that smokers find it harder to recover from the virus. In fact, early data from China published in the Chinese Medical Journal shows that smokers may have worse outcomes from COVID-19.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization recommends people quit smoking as it makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
In fact, Hockney’s views may be a simple act of rebellion. Last year, he admitted he smoked as an act of defiance. He told Wall Street Journal Magazine:
‘I’ve smoked for more than 60 years. But I think I’m quite healthy. I’m 82. How much longer do I have? I’m going to die of either a smoking-related illness or a non–smoking-related illness.’
Indeed, American anti-smoking attitudes were one reason he relocated from the States to his new home in Normandy, France.
Originally from the UK, he took up smoking while an art student in Bradford.
He was also famously a holder of a California Medical Marijuana Verification Card, enabling him to buy cannabis for medical purposes.
Meanwhile, assuming Hockney is wrong and the World Health Organization is right, many LGBT+ people may struggle to overcome COVID-19. Evidence suggests LGBT+ people are 46% more likely to smoke than the general population.
Coronavirus and staying healthy for LGBT+ people
For more sound advice on coronavirus, LGBT+ organizations have issued guidance on staying safe and healthy.
In particular, they are advising against sex as it spreads the virus. However, sex with someone you are self-isolating with is much safer, providing neither of you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Meanwhile, there’s more advice for HIV positive people about coronavirus here.
And there’s general coronavirus health advice for all LGBT+ people here. This includes links to advice for people with cancer and to LGBT+ supportive medical services in the US.
LGBT+ people are more likely to struggle with poor mental health. But there is help if you just reach out. You can find a list of LGBT+ resources and helplines all around the world here. Please note, some of the helplines may have different operating hours during the pandemic.