ARTIST David Hockney has attacked The Guardian newspaper for failing to print a letter he wrote setting out his argument in favour of smoking.
Hockney, a keen smoker, has previously described smoking bans in enclosed public spaces as the "most grotesque piece of social engineering".
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Hockney has suggested smoking helps protect people from Covid-19.
He became embroiled in a row with The Guardian yesterday when it refused to published his thoughts on smoking and coronavirus.
He branded the paper "cowardly" and claimed it "cannot face" aspects of his argument.
He added: "It's shocking that their agenda doesn't allow them to engage in open debate on this."
Hockney pointed out that Greece has seen one of the lowest coronavirus death rates in Europe despite having an above average number of smokers.
In a letter published in the Mail last month, he said: "Could it not be that smokers have developed an immune system to this virus?
"With all these figures coming out (in) research in China it's beginning to look like that to me.
"I'm serious and remember cigars and cigarettes are vegan."
The newspaper said he was referring to research in China on the numbers of smokers being treated with Covid-19 in hospitals.
To back up his argument, a team at Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris found the infection rate for smokers among Covid-19 outpatients and inpatients was significantly lower than for non-smokers.
Only 5.3 per cent of the coronavirus patients were smokers, while 25.4 per cent of the generation population smoke regularly.
The research said nicotine was the "likely" reason while stressing that using tobacco remained a danger to public health.
However the World Health Organisation said the French findings were "not consistent with what we are seeing in other countries."
Public Heath England issued a warning last month that smokers were putting themselves at much greater risk of developing severe disease from the virus.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action On Smoking And Health rejected the artist's comments.
"David Hockney is a very heavy smoker…but this is risky advice for others to take," she said.
"Quitting smoking has immediate benefits.
"If you quit, endothelial function in the linings of small arteries in the blood system improves rapidly."
She said endothelial dysfunction was implicated in Covid-19 and smokers therefore were at higher risk of complications.
Advice published by the National Institute For Health And Care Excellence "strongly encourages" smokers with severe respiratory disease to quit because of coronavirus.
Dr Sanjay Agrawal, consultant in respiratory and intensive care medicine, previously said: "Doctors should be strongly encouraging smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to quit.
"In fact they should be encouraging all smokers to quit, as early evidence from China shows that smokers who contract Covid-19 are more likely to develop severe disease, to end up in intensive care and to die.
"Smokers should try to quit without delay.
"The benefits from quitting are immediate, including increased oxygen supply to the lungs, reduced risk of respiratory infections, and improvements in blood pressure.
"Longer-term benefits include significant reductions in the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and COPD."
Hockney is currently painting in Normandy, France, which he has said "is a lot more smoker-friendly than England".
A Guardian News & Media spokesman said: "We receive hundreds of letters a day and cannot publish them all. However, we are not aware of recently receiving a letter from David Hockney."
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