New study shows chance is up to seven time greater than non-users
A new study finds that teens and young adults who use e-cigarettes face an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.
Teens and young adults who vaped were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. And young folks who vape and also smoke regular cigarettes have a sevenfold higher risk of getting COVID-19, researchers found.
The finding, published Aug. 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, prompted lawmakers in the United States to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clear the market of all e-cigarettes until the coronavirus crisis is over.
“These are really, really high numbers. I really want people to realize that e-cigarettes aren’t safe. It’s not just harmless, flavored water. There are real, significant, serious harms associated with these products,” said the study’s senior author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University in California.
The study wasn’t designed to tease out whether there’s a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but Halpern-Felsher said there are a number of plausible biological reasons a vaper or smoker might be more susceptible to a COVID-19 infection.
Halpern-Felsher said it’s known that e-cigarettes can affect the lungs and the immune system. Plus, there’s a pathway that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, relies on to get into cells, and e-cigarettes may make this pathway more available.
The more likely possibility is that teens may share e-cigarettes, she noted. If one teen is infected, the next who uses the device could inhale virus particles deep into their lungs. The exhaled vapor may also contain the virus, and could potentially infect people nearby.
That’s why the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy called on the FDA to remove vaping products from the U.S. market.
The new research followed a Chinese study that found smokers in that country had more serious infections and were hospitalized more often. While teens and young adults appear to be less affected by the new coronavirus, researchers wondered if e-cigarettes — which are popular among U.S. teens — might boost COVID-19 infection rates.
To learn more, researchers conducted an online survey. More than 4,300 U.S. teens and young adults (aged 13 to 24) completed the survey in early May. Half said they had used e-cigarettes.
Those who vaped and smoked were five times more likely to have COVID-19 symptoms, including coughs, fever, fatigue and trouble breathing, than those who never smoked or vaped. Young people using both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes were nine times more likely to be tested for COVID-19 than their non-using peers. Those who just vaped were nearly three times more likely to get tested for COVID-19, the study found.
“Here’s another study showing that e-cigarettes are linked to another serious outcome. There’s no reason for e-cigarettes to be on the market,” Halpern-Flesher said.