NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines prioritize smokers over teachers.

The reason? People who use tobacco have increased chances of hospitalization, and even death, caused by the coronavirus.

Smoking is now labeled by the CDC as a medical condition that increases risk of severe illness from COVID-19 explains Vanderbilt infectious disease doctor, David Aronoff.

“One of the things the CDC has been working really hard on is trying to identify risk factors for doing poorly with COVID-19 that might warrant prioritizing getting the vaccine.”

The CDC’s phased vaccine framework suggests smokers be vaccinated prior to other essential workers, including teachers.

“We’re really obliged to help any population of people who’s at increased risk of doing badly by trying to protect them,” said Dr. Aronoff.

A new study by the Cleveland Clinic included more than 7,000 COVID-19 patients. Dr. Victor Kha, a pulmonologist at TriStar Southern Hills, explains how COVID-19 patients who smoked at least one pack per day for more than 30 years faired.

“Those people actually were about twice as likely to be hospitalized with severe COVID and twice as likely to die from severe COVID.”

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Tennessee, unlike other states, hasn’t outwardly identified smokers in its vaccine plan. Although chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, is listed in Phase 1c. It’s a disease most often caused by cigarette smoke according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Rarely do you have COPD without smoking,” said Dr. Kha.

Preexisting lung damage, coupled with COVID-19, often requires intensive care.

“They’re on oxygen support. They’re on life support for a very long time,” explained Dr. Kha.

Which is one reason why he supports prioritizing smokers for a vaccine.

“That will inevitability help us with our resources at the hospital.”

Other high-risk health conditions found in Phase 1c include obesity, heart failure, and hypertension. All of these conditions fall in line behind Tennessee teachers and first responders staff who’ll receive vaccines in Phase 1b.