David Hockney has suggested smoking helps protect people from Covid-19.
The artist, 82, a keen smoker, has previously described smoking bans in enclosed public spaces as the “most grotesque piece of social engineering”.
Now, in a letter to The Daily Mail, he wrote: “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.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action On Smoking And Health (Ash) rejected his 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 (Nice) “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”.