Young vapers in US five to seven times more likely be infected with coronavirus than non-smokers: Study

If you are a vaper, you are putting yourself at risk for Covid-19 and other lung diseases, caution experts


                            Young vapers in US five to seven times more likely be infected with coronavirus than non-smokers: Study
(Getty Images)

Vaping has now been linked to a substantially increased risk of Covid-19 among teenagers and young adults in the US. Among young people who were tested for the coronavirus, researchers found that those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not use e-cigarettes.

Led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the team examined connections between youth vaping and coronavirus using US population-based data collected during the pandemic. “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,” writes the study’s senior author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics at Stanford.

The authors collected data via online surveys conducted in May. Surveys were completed by 4,351 participants ages 13 to 24 who lived in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and three US territories. The team recruited a sample of participants that was evenly divided between those who had used e-cigarettes and those who had never used nicotine products. The sample also included approximately equal numbers of people in different age groups (adolescents, young adults, and adults), races, and genders.

Participants answered questions about whether they had ever used vaping devices or combustible cigarettes, as well as whether they had vaped or smoked in the past 30 days. They were asked if they had experienced Covid-19 symptoms, received a test for coronavirus, or received a positive diagnosis of Covid-19 after being tested. The results were adjusted for confounding factors such as age, sex, LGBTQ status, race/ethnicity, mother’s level of education, body mass index, compliance with shelter-in-place orders, rate of Covid-19 diagnosis in the states where the participants were residing, and state and regional trends in e-cigarette use.

The analysis reveals that young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience coronavirus symptoms such as coughing, fever, tiredness, and difficulty in breathing as those who never smoked or vaped. This may explain why they were also more likely to receive Covid-19 testing, especially given that in May, many regions limited Covid-19 testing to people with symptoms, according to Halpern-Felsher. Depending on which nicotine products they used and how recently they had used them, young people who vaped or smoked, or both, were 2.6 to nine times more likely to receive Covid-19 tests than non-users, reveals the analysis published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience coronavirus symptoms such as coughing, fever, tiredness, and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped, says the report. (Getty Images)

Among study participants who were tested for Covid-19, those who had ever used e-cigarettes were five times more likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than non-users. Those who had used both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in the previous 30 days were 6.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease, shows the analysis. “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. 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,” emphasizes lead author of the research paper, postdoctoral scholar Shivani Mathur Gaiha.

The researchers did not find a connection between Covid-19 diagnosis and smoking conventional cigarettes alone. This could perhaps be due to the prevalent pattern among youth to use both vaping devices and traditional cigarettes, they explain. Other research has shown that nearly all nicotine-using youth vape and some also smoke cigarettes, but very few use cigarettes only, adds Halpern-Felsher.

In line with other recent studies, the authors found that lower socioeconomic status and Hispanic or multiracial ethnicity were linked to a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease. Besides warning teenagers and young adults about the dangers of vaping, the team hope their findings will prompt the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to further tighten regulations governing how vaping products are sold to young people. “Now is the time. We need the FDA to hurry up and regulate these products. And we need to tell everyone: If you are a vaper, you are putting yourself at risk for Covid-19 and other lung diseases,” cautions Halpern-Felsher.

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