During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has
been a lot of talk about high-risk individuals and uncertainty about what decides whether a person’s case will be mild or severe. Even though it might seem like individuals are only considered high risk due to pre-existing or chronic health issues, people who smoke or vape are likely to be high-risk too. Although someone may be perfectly healthy, by smoking or vaping they are making themselves more susceptible to COVID-19.
Studies have come out this year proving that smoking and vaping increase a person’s risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19. The UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education found through studying teens and young adults that “those who had ever used e-cigarettes were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19” and “those who had used both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in the previous 30 days were 6.8 times more likely.” In addition, the Chinese Medical Journal found that in their group of patients, whose cases intensified over the observation period, there was “a significantly higher proportion of patients with a history of smoking than the improvement/stabilization group.” These researchers also listed “history of smoking” under risk factors for COVID-19.
There is logical reasoning behind the facts that led doctors to believe vaping and smoking put people at high risk, even before the studies were conducted. In a Health Matters article, journalists discussed the consequences of vaping and its impact on COVID-19 patients with cardiothoracic (heart and lungs) surgeon Dr. Brendon Stiles. Dr. Stiles explained that the COVID-19 virus attacks and damages the air sacs in the lungs that are essential for oxygen absorption, making it more difficult to send oxygen through the bloodstream, and therefore the lungs become weak and more likely to fail. Relating this to smoking and vaping, Dr. Stiles added that smoking and vaping also damage the lung’s air sacs, causing them to be already weakened before encountering COVID-19; these activities can also weaken the immune system. The American Lung Association reports that smoking and vaping “disrupts the immune system causing a chronic degree of inflammation in our airways,” setting up risk for a severe case of COVID-19.
While health professionals and researchers have tried to warn the public about the effects that smoking and vaping have on COVID-19 cases, other organizations have tried to convince people otherwise. Exposetobacco.org reveals these organizations’ “flawed methods” and unreliable studies, saying they gathered unrepresentative samples and were biased. For example, the author of an article titled “A Nicotinic Hypothesis for COVID-19 with Preventive and Therapeutic Implications” has “long-standing historical links to the tobacco industry.” Because of this, health professionals are warning the public to be cautious about the information they consume online regarding smoking and vaping. They are also urging those who do smoke or vape to quit. There are many online resources available that provide help and support for quitting smoking and vaping including the American Lung Association, which is a leading resource in providing information and help to individuals who wish to quit smoking or vaping.
By Katelyn Wiszowaty, Arts & Entertainment Editor