Smoking, vaping, and COVID-19

Now, there’s another reason to quit smoking or vaping — you’ll lower your risk of getting COVID-19.

Experts say that vaping and smoking is contributing to the spread of the coronavirus, and it also weakens the body’s ability to fight the infection and recover from it.

In a study of over 4,000 teens and young adults, those who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes were nearly 7 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and nearly 5 times more likely to have symptoms, compared to nonsmokers. Among individuals who used only cigarettes or only e-cigarettes, those who vaped were nearly twice as likely to test positive, while the regular smokers were 1.5 times more likely to test positive. And because both vaping and smoking damages the lungs, people who use e-cigarettes or cigarettes are more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19 and have a harder time recovering.

In addition, people who vape or smoke are frequently putting their hands to their mouths and touching their own face, which could increase the risk of catching the coronavirus. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends not touching your face as a key strategy to avoid getting sick.

Another CDC guideline is to wear a face mask, but smokers take their masks off to bring the e-cigarette or cigarette to their mouth. If they do this around others, their exhale could infect nearby people. And in the case of vaping, some people share their e-cigarette products, which further increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Commit to quit

The American Cancer Society recently sponsored its annual Great American Smokeout, encouraging smokers to give their bodies a 1-day break from the many negative health effects of electronic and traditional smoking — most notably the fact that it causes 80 percent of the lung cancer deaths in the US. Quitting smoking also lowers the risk of developing 11 other types of cancer and heart disease.

While the number of traditional smokers is dropping, more and more people (especially teens and young adults) are taking up vaping. Some believe vaping to be a safer alternative or even a strategy to quit smoking, but e-cigarettes contain the same toxic and highly addictive nicotine found in regular cigarettes. And the COVID-19 study found that e-smokers had an even greater risk of getting sick than traditional smokers.

There are also serious concerns about other chemicals found in the vapor, which can rapidly damage the lungs. As of February 18, 2020, the CDC reported more than 2,800 hospitalizations and 68 deaths due to e-cigarette, or vaping, associated lung injury (EVALI). Unfortunately, the enticing flavors and pleasant odor make it even harder to realize how dangerous vaping can be.

Crush that craving

If you want to take a step toward better health by trying to quit, check out this interactive game. It offers a fun distraction and some useful tips to help you get past the urge to pick up a cigarette or e-cigarette.

Sources:

“5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know,” John Hopkins Medicine (hopkinsmedicine.org), 2020
“A New Study Emphasizes the Connections Between Coronavirus and Teen Vaping,” Cleveland Clinic (health.clevelandclinic.org), November 11, 2020
“Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), February 25, 2020
“Take Part in the 2020 Great American Smokeout,” by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (newswise.com), November 10, 2020