New research finds vaping associated with higher risk of COVID-19

A new study finds that young adults and youth who have ever used e-cigarettes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than non-users. Researchers also report a COVID-19 diagnosis is seven times more likely among “dual-users” who have used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes.

The study, which was led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, surveyed over 4,000 individuals aged 13-24 years in May.

 

 

Children and youth have a lower risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to older age groups, but the rise in vaping in the United States pushed the researchers to evaluate the potential risk-factors associated with e-cigarette use.

The researchers point to a number of potential reasons why e-cigarette and dual-users are more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Explanations range from the adverse impact of smoking on lung function to the risk posed by repeatedly touching one’s hands to the face and mouth while smoking.

The survey also evaluated the impact of smoking on experiencing COVID-related symptoms. Respondents who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the past 30-days were 4.7 times more likely to experience the symptoms of COVID-19.

“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.

Health disparities are also reflected in the data as researchers found that symptoms were twice as likely among Black, Hispanic, and other/multiracial youth, and 1.8 times more likely among LGBTQ youth.

“The findings have direct implications for health care providers to ask all youth and COVID-19–infected youth about cigarette and e-cigarette use history; for parents, schools, and community-based organizations to guide youth to learn more about how e-cigarettes and dual use affect the respiratory and immune systems; for the Food and Drug Administration to effectively regulate e-cigarettes during the COVID-19 pandemic; and for the development and dissemination of youth-focused COVID-19 prevention messaging to include e-cigarette and dual use,” wrote the researchers.