Can vaping increase your risk of COVID-19?
We know that vaping causes lung injury and that injured lungs are more susceptible to infection, so since the pandemic began, there has been suspicion that vaping increases one’s coronavirus risk. While there were no formal studies, both the FDA and the NIH issued warnings in the early weeks of the pandemic given the concern that “coronavirus could be especially serious to those who smoke or vape.” Stanford University has now done a study that confirms the suspected correlation. The study, which was published August 11, showed that people “ages 13 to 24 who use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than their non-vaping peers [and that] those who are dual users—people who smoke both traditional and electronic cigarettes—are seven times more likely to test positive for the virus.” Even one of the coauthors, Bonnie Helpern-Felsher, admitted that she didn’t expect the relationship to be that strong. The study looked at two questions: “Were e-cigarette smokers more likely to get tested for SARS-CoV-2? And were they more likely to test positive? [ and] “the answer was soundly yes” to both parts of the question, says Halpern-Felsher.” The researchers aren’t entirely sure why vapers were more likely to get tested (maybe they confused effects of vaping with COVID-19 symptoms?), but found that “the high rate of positive test results may indicate that vapers are more vulnerable to the virus itself.”
More studies are needed to prove causation, but the authors and other researchers believe the increased risk may come from lung damage itself, suppression of the respiratory immune responses, the fact that vapers touch their hand to their mouth more frequently (and potentially share vape pens), or because the virus is easily aerosolized and thus spread when vapers exhale. So while we don’t yet know if there is a specific biological susceptibility, we still recommend that you DO NOT VAPE during the pandemic (or really any time). Read more here.
(Jackie Phillips, MD, August 25, 2020).