Vaping has been associated with lung disease and injuries, including popcorn lung, pneumonia and collapsed lungs.
But new research is showing that vaping use also may be linked to an increased likelihood of a person becoming infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. Here’s what you should know about vaping and how it could set you at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Teens, Vaping And COVID
A new study published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that vaping is linked to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 coronavirus among teens and young adults.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that teens and young adults who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected by COVID-19 than those who weren’t vaping. Teens who had ever vaped were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those who had never used e-cigarettes.
Using both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes increases the risk even further, the researchers found. According to the study, those who used both modes of smoking within 30 days of their COVID-19 test were nearly seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. The researchers did not find a connection between COVID-19 diagnosis and smoking conventional cigarettes alone. The researchers noted the prevalent pattern among teens is to use both vaping devices and traditional cigarettes.
Vaping And Smoking Weaken The Immune System
Vaping and smoking weaken the body’s immunity and its natural defenses against disease in several ways:
Tobacco use increases levels of angiotensinconverting enzyme 2 (ACE2), an enzyme that helps the COVID-19 virus attach to cells in the lung once it enters the body.
Vaping and smoking damage the cilia, or hairlike structures that line the lungs to help move air throughout the lungs. This damage in the lungs makes it easier for the COVID-19 virus to enter the lungs.
Vaping and smoking damage certain types of white blood cell that help fight infections.
Many tobacco flavorings, including menthol, affect how well lung and airway cells can fight infections.
How Vaping Impacts Your Lungs
“Some of the vaping products have vitamin E and other chemicals that can cause serious inflammation. Severe inflammation in the lungs can damage the lungs to the point that people can go into severe respiratory distress, and some of that can leave a permanent damage to the lung,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, an independent interventional pulmonologist who chooses to practice at Franciscan Health.
Several substances found in vaping liquid or that are produced when e-cigarettes heat up the liquid are known to pose a risk to lungs.
- Vitamin E acetate
These chemicals lead to the damage of the air sacs needed for oxygen exchange in the lungs and can cause acute inflammation or pneumonia.
For persons with asthma and COPD, the risk of inflammation from these chemicals increase.
“People who have lung disease, like asthma or COPD or fibrosis, should be really careful that they should do the maximum to make sure that the level of inflammation in their lungs is low,” Dr. Khan said.
Inflammation Impacts COVID-19 Risk
“Any time our lungs or irritated or inflamed, you're going to have a higher tendency to not fight all viruses as well,” said Cindy Cunningham, respiratory therapist at Franciscan Health Lafayette East. “Because COVID is actually a respiratory virus that highly affects the lungs, any lungs not being at their healthiest place are going to be affected, moreso.”
Vaping and cigarette use, even second-hand, can impact your body’s ability to ward off disease.
“The more healthy our lungs are, the better chance they can ward off any infection they may encounter,” Dr. Khan said. “If you are inhaling cigarette smoke or vaping, and that is causing inflammation in the lungs and you acquire COVID or any other viral infection, your chance of warding off or fighting off infection is on the lower side.”
By Robbie Schneider
Social Media Manager