Background: Tobacco smoking, passive smoking, and indoor air pollution from biomass fuels have been implicated as risk factors for tuberculosis (TB) infection, disease, and death. Tobacco smoking and indoor air pollution are persistent or growing exposures in regions where TB poses a major health risk. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantitatively assess the association between these exposures and the risk of infection, disease, and death from TB.
Methods and findings: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies reporting effect estimates and 95% confidence intervals on how tobacco smoking, passive smoke exposure, and indoor air pollution are associated with TB. We identified 33 papers on tobacco smoking and TB, five papers on passive smoking and TB, and five on indoor air pollution and TB. We found substantial evidence that tobacco smoking is positively associated with TB, regardless of the specific TB outcomes. Compared with people who do not smoke, smokers have an increased risk of having a positive tuberculin skin test, of having active TB, and of dying from TB. Although we also found evidence that passive smoking and indoor air pollution increased the risk of TB disease, these associations are less strongly supported by the available evidence.
Conclusions: There is consistent evidence that tobacco smoking is associated with an increased risk of TB. The finding that passive smoking and biomass fuel combustion also increase TB risk should be substantiated with larger studies in future. TB control programs might benefit from a focus on interventions aimed at reducing tobacco and indoor air pollution exposures, especially among those at high risk for exposure to TB.