New investigation links vaping to higher risk of Covid-19
Since the pandemic began to hit the United States hard in March, with speculation about the link between vaping and Covid-19 flourished. the Food and drug administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse both issued warnings. Anecdotal reports young vapers suffering from severe coronavirus infections have started to appear. But there was very little research to support a connection.
Now, a study published today in The Journal of Adolescent Health Finally, offers data showing a relationship between the use of electronic cigarettes and the risk of Covid-19. Researchers at Stanford University show that teens and young adults aged 13 to 24 who use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than their non-vaping peers. Those who are dual users – people who smoke both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes – are seven times more likely to test positive for the virus, the researchers found.
“I knew there would be a relationship,” says co-author Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University who studies smoking among young people. “I didn’t expect it to be such a strong relationship.”
Studies has already smoking related with higher susceptibility to severe Covid-19 infections, but previously no population-based study had examined the link between e-cigarette use and Covid-19 in adolescents and young adults. The question the researchers wanted to answer was twofold: were e-cigarette smokers more likely to be tested for SARS-CoV-2? And were they more likely to test positive? “The answer is absolutely yes” to both parts of the question, says Halpern-Felsher.
The researchers gathered their data through an online survey published on spaces such as social media and gaming sites. Over 4,000 teens and young adults from all 50 states responded, taking the approximately 15-minute survey. The researchers then weighted the samples to reflect the race and ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ status and age of the United States population.
The survey, which was sent out in early May, asked respondents if they had ever used regular or electronic cigarettes; if they had used them in the last 30 days; whether they had been tested for Covid-19; and whether their test results came back positive. The researchers also checked other Covid-19 risk factors as if the respondents lived near a coronavirus hotspot; if they were under or Overweight, which can affect lung function; and for their socio-economic status, which may affect how can people socially outrun. Ultimately, the researchers determined that double users who had smoked in the past 30 days were not only more likely to test positive, but were also nine times more likely to get tested in the first place. .
The survey did not explore why users decided to get tested. Users may have confused the effects of vaping (excess phlegm, coughing, or shortness of breath) with symptoms of Covid-19. But the high rate of positive test results may indicate that vapers are more vulnerable to the virus itself.
That said, this study simply illustrates a correlation between e-cigarettes and cigarette consumption and positive Covid-19 diagnoses. As the authors explain in the article, their results “show that electronic cigarette use and dual use of electronic cigarettes and cigarettes are important underlying risk factors for COVID-19 which had not been demonstrated before ”. But on its own, this document cannot prove whether it is possible that they are more biologically likely to be infected in the first place or whether they are more likely to have serious infections.
Still, Halpern-Felsher has a few theories as to why this overlap might exist. Smokers can have more lung damage, which makes them more susceptible to the virus. Or they may touch their hand to their mouth more often than other people, or share vapes, increasing their likelihood of being exposed in the first place. Or it could be that the virus is spread through aerosols as the vapors exhale. “These are all assumptions,” she said. “Someone needs to follow up.”