We already know that smoking cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products result in worse coronavirus outcomes.
What could be worse? Teenagers and young adults who vape face a much higher risk of COVID-19 than their peers who do not, according to new research from Stanford Univerity. In fact, that data—collected from a May 2020 national survey of 13 to 24-year-olds—showed that vapers are five times more likely to get COVID-19.
The risk is seven times higher for dual—smoking and vaping—users.
“Young people may believe their age protects them from contracting the virus or that they will not experience symptoms of COVID-19, but the data show this isn’t true among those who vape,” Dr. Shivani Mathur Gaiha, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral scholar, said in a press release. “This study tells us pretty clearly that youth who are using vapes or are dual-using [e-cigarettes and cigarettes] are at elevated risk, and it’s not just a small increase in risk; it’s a big one.”
Why is this Study Important?
Many studies have already shown that smoking is associated with a substantially higher risk of COVID-19 progression, and the current research examines connections between youth vaping and COVID-19.
Worse, a staggering one in three American high school students used some type of tobacco product in the previous 30 days, according to the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Several types of e-cigarette devices have become widely available over the past ten years. E-cigarette maker JUUL Labs has been a roaring success in recent years, becoming the fastest startup to reach a valuation of over $10 billion and drawing an FDA crackdown.
A study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that just one month of vaping altered the lungs of people who had never vaped before. The research team discovered that the lungs of people in the vaping group did see some small changes in inflammation over four weeks.
“Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness, and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped,” Erin Digitale, a pediatrics science writer in Stanford’s Office of Communications, writes in a press release. “Depending on which nicotine products they used and how recently they had used them, young people who vaped or smoked, or both, were 2.6 to nine times more likely to receive COVID-19 tests than nonusers.”
Health experts say e-cigarettes need stronger regulations to prevent youth access and use. Now, with the coronavirus outbreak, experts are encouraging people more than ever to give up smoking and vaping.
“Teens and young adults need to know that if you use e-cigarettes, you are likely at immediate risk of COVID-19 because you are damaging your lungs,” Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, the study’s senior author and a Stanford pediatrics professor, said in a press release. “Now is the time. We need the FDA to hurry up and regulate these products. And we need to tell everyone: If you are a vaper, you are putting yourself at risk for COVID-19 and other lung disease.”
Researchers are even examining the viral transmission of secondhand and thirdhand smoke.
“So, the big concern with coronavirus is if you were to get infected and you’ve been vaping, or you’ve been smoking, that the risk is that your lungs are already set back before the virus infecting them, so there’s concern that you’re going to get more sick if you do get coronavirus.” Brian Williams, a doctor, and researcher at the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, said in a public-health video posted on the University of Wisconsin website.
Why is it Important for Latinos?
The COVID-19 outbreak adds to the problem and contributes to disparities in health and wealth, mainly among people of color.
Moreover, the coronavirus outbreak highlights inequities impacting Latinos and their family, especially in rural areas. Underlying conditions in young Latinos are prevalent, and that increases the risk for severe cases of coronavirus.
A greater percentage of patients between the ages of 20 to 54, according to recent CDC data. In the U.S. with coronavirus are people with color who were sick enough to need hospitalization.
Stanford’s study results were adjusted for confounding factors such as age, sex, LGBTQ status, race/ethnicity, mother’s level of education, body mass index, compliance with shelter-in-place orders, rate of COVID-19 diagnosis in the states where the participants were residing, and state and regional trends in e-cigarette use.
The study results showed that among African American/Black, Hispanic, other/multiracial races have a higher correlation to COVID-19 symptoms and vaping and are at higher risk for COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak is worsening Latino health, social, and income inequities and raising fears of disparities in disease rates, exposure, testing, and prevention, which has caused disproportionately higher rates of cases and death, job loss, and other inequitable impacts.
Check out these 19 solutions to immediately ease the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on Latinos and people of color, as well as make long-term strides to address underlying inequities that are aggravated during this time.
Also, get a “Health Equity Report Card” for your area! Select your county name and get a customized Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio and email your Health Equity Report Card to decision-makers, share it on social media, and use it to make a case for community change to boost health equity for the long-term.
Learn more about the coronavirus pandemic and Latino health:
‘Quitxt’ Can Help You Quit Smoking and help you during COVID-19 Pandemic
“If people are worried about COVID-19 and having an infection or getting a severe infection, there’s one thing you can do quickly, and that is you can quit smoking, and you can quit vaping.” Darcy Ellefson, a respiratory therapy program specialist at the Sanford Wellness Center in Sioux Falls, said to the press.
Let us hope Covid-19 provides new motivation for youngsters to quit smoking.
If you are interested in quitting cigarettes, join Quitxt.
Quitxt is a bilingual service for your smartphone that sends messages with culturally and regionally tailored support to help South Texas young adults quit smoking.
Join Quitxt via Facebook Messenger, just hit “send message”!
The service uses text messages, or Facebook Messenger chat to help with motivation to quit, setting a quit date, finding things to do instead of smoking, handling stress, using nicotine replacement if needed, and more. The service was created by Amelie G. Ramirez, leader of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
“We are deeply honored to be able to expand and extend our Quitxt texting program to help young adults quit smoking across Texas,” Dr. Ramirez said.