Vaping Increases COVID-19 Risk, Especially for Young Adults and Teens
Scientists have long speculated that vaping can exacerbate a person’s likelihood of getting COVID-19 or having a severe case, and one recent study by the Journal of Adolescent Health is the first to find conclusive results on the topic.
Vaping has been linked to a significant increase in COVID-19 risk among young adults and teenagers, explains a Forbes article. The conclusion comes from experts’ research over the course of the last few months. A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health is the first to examine the connection between vaping and COVID-19.
Among those tested for COVID-19, researchers at Stanford University found that those who used e-cigarettes were five to seven times more likely to be infected with the virus than those who did not vape.
“Teens and young adults need to know that if you use e-cigarettes, you are likely at immediate risk of COVID-19 because you are damaging your lungs,” said University of Stanford Professor of Pediatrics and study author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher.
The proposed health risks of vaping are not new. If you remember, earlier this year and in 2019, there have been a large increase in individuals—especially younger individuals—who are hospitalized due to complications with vaping. The CDC and other public health organizations spoke out against vaping and recommended against it.
The study supports the idea that vaping increases a person’s likelihood of getting the virus, but previous research also shows that smokers and vapers are more likely to develop a serious COVID-19 infection and even die from the virus.
Smoking and vaping can weaken the lungs normal functions and cause airway and lung inflammation, which makes it easier for pathogens to enter the body. Also, some ingredients in vape cartridges can actually slow the body’s ability to fight infections.
Many young individuals may loosen their precautions against the virus because they believe they will have a less severe case of COVID-19. Recent months have shown that not only are an increasing number of young people getting the virus, but some are having very dangerous cases, and those who vape (and smoke) are at severe risk of complications.
“This study tells us pretty clearly that youth who are using vapes or are dual-using [e-cigarettes and cigarettes] are at elevated risk, and it's not just a small increase in risk; it's a big one,” said lead author of the study, Shivani Mathur Gaiha.
The study accounted for participants’ age, sex, compliance with shelter-in-place orders, rate of COVID-19 diagnosis in the states the participants live and other factors. The study found that young people who had used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes within the previous 30 days were almost seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.
Smoking or vaping increases your likelihood of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms—like coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing—nearly five-fold, the study showed.
To make matters worse, the E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) have similar symptoms to the coronavirus, making diagnosis more difficult.
“Because EVALI and Covid-19 signs and symptoms can be similar (e.g., cough, fever, and diarrhea), health care providers should maintain clinical suspicion for EVALI during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote researchers in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report via CDC.
The article says that this might be the reason these individuals might be more likely to receive COVID-19 testing, since many regions prioritize testing individuals with symptoms. The study showed that young people who vaped or smoked, or both, were 2.6 to nine times more likely to receive a COVID-19 test than non-users.
What to do now? The study’s researchers hope that their researchers will prompt the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create stricter regulations for how vape products are sold to young people, and to sound the alarm that vapers and smokers are at severe risk for COVID-19 and lung disease.