AGENCIES, Paris: Among the various unsubstantiated treatments being touted for coronavirus include malaria tablets and now nicotine. The nicotine theory is gaining ground as scientific findings have found 12.6 per cent of 1,000 people infected in China were smokers.
The theory which could explain this phenomenon is that nicotine could adhere to cell receptors, therefore blocking the virus from entering cells and spreading in the body, according to renown neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux from France’s Pasteur Institut who also co-authored the study.
As a result, France on Friday began restricting sales of nicotine substitutes after the research findings were published this week that suggested nicotine may offer some protection against infection by the new coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said in a decree it aimed to avoid a shortage of products such as nicotine patches for patients and to prevent the wrong use, and overuse, of substitutes used to fight nicotine dependence. The decree also said that online sales were suspended.
Under the decree, pharmacies are not allowed to sell more than a month’s worth of substitutes until May 11 when France is to begin easing lockdown measures and reopening schools.
“But beware, this does not mean that tobacco protects. Tobacco kills”, health minister Olivier Veran said, adding that more than 70,000 people die each year in France from smoking related illnesses.
Researchers warned nevertheless that smokers who did become infected with coronavirus would develop more severe cases of the COVID-19 respiratory disease it causes.
Meanwhile, French researchers are planning to test nicotine patches on patients and frontline health workers.