Study Says Teens Who Vape at Higher Risk of Catching COVID-19

A new study on the connections between smoking and COVID-19 may see you giving up vaping for awhile - or at least until the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found teenagers and young adults who vape face a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 over their non-smoking peers.

The study is one of the first examining the connections between vaping and the rate of COVID-19 infections in young people. Researchers drew on data from surveys of over 4,351 participants ages 13 to 24 from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. Study participants were asked if they'd used any vaping devices or smoked a cigarette in the past thirty days and if they had experienced any symptoms of COVID-19, or received a positive test for the coronavirus.

The data showed young people who had used e-cigs or vaped in the past 30 days were five times more likely to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The rate was even higher among people who had used both e-cigs and regular cigarettes within the previous 30 days - they were 6.8 times as likely to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“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 the study’s senior author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of pediatrics.  

The study points to higher rates of transmission of COVID-19 among vapers because e-cigarets can damage lungs and alter the immune system, experts say. That means vapers who are exposed to the coronavirus are more likely to be infected.

Experts also point to the aerosols emitted by vapers, that could have droplets containing the coronavirus, which are then spread to another person or re-inhaled in the patient's lungs.

“Young people may believe their age protects them from contracting the virus or that they will not experience symptoms of COVID-19, but the data show this isn’t true among those who vape,” said the study’s lead author, postdoctoral scholar Shivani Mathur Gaiha, PhD.

“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,” Gaiha said.

Photo: Getty Images

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