As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the United States, researchers are studying the factors that may exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and lead to severe complications. According to the World Health Organization, individuals with compromised immune systems and the elderly face a higher risk for complications related to the virus. However, researchers have recently turned their attention to other potential risk factors—smoking and vaping—which may put users at risk for serious and fatal complications and related lung injuries.
Is there a link between vaping and COVID-19?
Currently, no available evidence proves a link between vaping, smoking, and COVID-19. Both the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating the association between severe respiratory illness and tobacco use. Additionally, researchers are awaiting studies conducted among COVID-19 patients to determine whether smoking, vaping, and other substance uses are considered risk factors for virus complications.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there is no safe tobacco product, and all tobacco products—including vape mods and e-cigarettes—pose significant health risks. Although no studies are available on the link between COVID-19 complications and vaping, existing information on the effects of vaping on the lungs and immune system can help us make educated guesses.
How does vaping affect the lungs?
While it’s well-known that cigarettes are bad for the lungs, the effects of vaping on lung health remain unclear. Injuries and illnesses related to vapes, vape mods, and e-cigarettes have resulted in over 2,500 hospitalizations and at least 64 deaths, and data from patient reports and sample testing have revealed that vitamin E acetate, an additive in vape products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is linked to most EVALI cases. According to Gregory J. Cannata Law & Associates, LLP, a personal injury law firm, e-cigarettes and vape mods can also explode, leading to severe vaping injury and death.
Lung injuries related to vaping are often caused by the contaminants inhaled with the vapor. According to CDC vaccine provider Dr. Michael Hall, ”a variety of things can enter deeper into the lungs and cause irritation” when vaping, which can then ”cause problems with the protective nature of the lungs.” Human and animal studies have also suggested that vaping can detrimentally affect lung health.
Vaping can damage the protective lining of the lungs. When an individual has impaired lung health, COVID-19 infection could spread more quickly through the body, according to Dr. Hall.
Does vaping weaken the immune system?
In addition to damaging lung tissue, studies have suggested that the use of vaping products can weaken the immune system. In one experimental study, e-cigarette vapor increased the production of inflammatory chemicals and weakened protective cells in the lungs. Another study found that mice exposed to vapor suffered from weakened immune systems.
If vaping and e-cigarette use weakens the immune system, individuals who smoke and vape may face a significantly higher risk for complications, as immunocompromised people are at a higher risk of developing a serious or fatal illness.
If you’re immunocompromised, it’s essential to take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 and avoid exposure to the virus. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after being in public, practicing social distancing, and covering the nose and mouth with a cloth face covering while around others. If you don’t have a face mask, Designers Union offers an affordable, comfortable, and fashionable pink camo face mask which can help you protect others in case you become infected.
Ultimately, although the link between vaping and COVID-19 remains unclear, available evidence suggests that it’s best to avoid smoking and vaping during the pandemic.