Smokers are more likely to get the coronavirus, a Tasmanian academic and researcher says.
University of Tasmania senior lecturer and head of the respiratory research group Dr Sukhwinder Singh Sohal said research showed that a lot of people with the virus were smokers.
"In Tasmania we have a high rate of smoking compared with the rest of Australia so people should try to quit now.
"There can't be a better motivation now than the coronavirus.
"We need to make smokers aware that they are at higher risk and even passive smokers and people who use electronic cigarettes are at risk."
Dr Sohal and fellow researchers, including Tasmanian researcher Dr Kathryn Barnsley, have just published research into smoking and COVID-19 in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
They said that in the epicentre of the original outbreak in China male smoking rates were high at around 50 per cent and older males had died from the virus.
A recent Chinese study found that smokers are 14-times more at risk for severe coronavirus infection and 14 per cent more likely to get pneumonia.
"In Iran, China, Italy, and South Korea, female smoking rates are much lower than males. Fewer females have contracted the virus," they wrote.
"If this analysis is correct, then Indonesia would be expected to begin experiencing high rates of COVID-19 because its male smoking rate is over 60 per cent.
"Smokers are vulnerable to respiratory viruses."
Dr Sohal said smoking stimulates a specific receptor used by coronavirus to get entry into the lung cells making smokers and patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) more vulnerable to viral infection.
"We provide first human lung tissue evidence for increased expression of this receptor in smokers and patients with COPD," he said.
Dr Sohal said in light of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, governments should be trying to reduce smoking rates.
"Research suggests that vaping and smoking make people similarly vulnerable to respiratory infections and to worse complications of these illnesses," he said.
"Smoking/vaping and respiratory infections act like a 'double whammy' on the lungs and immune system, and amplify one another's effects.
" I also appeal to local and national health organisations to come forward and support this research further for a healthy planet before it's too late!
"We should have a stimulus package for health professionals including researchers working on COVID-19, as they have done for business."