Vaping & COVID-19

April 3, 2020

Is There a Link Between Vaping and Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A lot of people are asking this very question… We already know there is conclusive evidence that traditional cigarette smoking increases the risk for respiratory infections, weakens the immune system, and is a major cause of several health conditions—including COPD, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) wrote on its blog post that “people with substance-use disorders, including those who vape, could be especially hard-hit by COVID-19.” The science around vaping is still evolving, as is the science around COVID-19 (which did not exist until three months ago).

While studies have shown that vaping can lead to lung damage and other health problems, the products have not been on the market long enough to speak confidently about their long-term effects. What we do know is that having a pre-existing condition—especially one related to respiratory health—increases the chances that someone will experience complications from COVID-19, so it’s reasonable to think vaping could play a part.

Yasmin Thanavala, an immunologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, stated that “some of her group’s animal research suggests vaping may prevent the body from healing from bacterial infections.” Coronavirus is a viral infection, but Thanavala says “on a theoretical basis, a similar effect could apply.”

Dr. Steve Schroeder—professor of medicine at the University of California—says, “even assuming vaping does cause some amount of lung damage, it’s unlikely that most people who vape have been using e-cigarettes long enough to see the full brunt of it.” The exception to that would be the patients who got sick during the vaping-related lung injury outbreak last year, which health authorities traced back to vape products spiked with THC and the additive vitamin E acetate. Daniel Ament, a 17-year-old from Michigan, needed a double lung transplant after vaping (nicotine). Daniel said, “I definitely am at a higher risk for COVID-19.” Given his past lung injury and fragile immune system post-transplant, Ament is staying inside, wearing a mask almost constantly, and visiting his doctors and therapists virtually. His whole family started a self-quarantine last week, to avoid bringing home germs.

So what’s the final word…? It is probably safe to assume that, between the well-documented, adverse effects of smoking and the tendency of vaping to weaken the lungs, these behaviors will put individuals at greater risk during the COVID-19 epidemic. If you have experienced any of the short-term effects associated with vaping—such as shortness of breath, a chronic cough, or discomfort in the chest—consider erring on the side of caution by practicing social distancing and good hygiene. Perhaps this global crisis and the serious threat posed by this virus will help individuals to ultimately consider giving up vaping for good.

Check out the resources below for more information on this topic:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

Scientific American:

Time Magazine:

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