According to a new Stanford study published today in the Journal of Adolescent Health, young adults who vape are very more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those who don’t.
The researchers found that young adults aged 13 to 24 who use e-cigarette products are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than other non-vaping young adults. Those who vape and also smoke cigarettes are seven times more likely to test positive.
“I knew there would be a relationship,” co0author Bonnie Halpern-Felscher, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, told Wired. “I did not expect it to be this strong of a relationship.”
We’ve suspected for several months that there was a connection. In mid-March, scientists claimed it was reasonable to assume that smoking or vaping could make COVID-19 symptoms more severe once infected. Other studies have also found a similar association.
The researchers got their data through online surveys posted on social media and gaming sites, gathering data from over 4,000 teens and young adults from all 50 US states.
While the found association was demonstrably pretty strong, “we did not ask participants about hospitalization or severity of symptoms and cannot ascertain asymptomatic respondents,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
They also did not ask why users decided to get tested for the coronavirus, meaning that there’s a chance some participants confused the effects of vaping with COVID-19 symptoms, as Wired points out.
The researchers have some hypotheses, albeit unproven, as to why there’s such a strong association: smokers may have increased lung damage making them more vulnerable. They could be touching their face and mouth more often. Or sharing vapes.
“This is yet one more sign that e-cigarettes are unhealthy,” Halpern-Felsher told The Verge. “Look, this is a pandemic […] this is the time for you to quit and not start vaping,” she said, to anyone who needs to hear this, somehow.
In their paper, the researchers suggest that the Food and Drug Administration should consider effectively regulating e-cigarettes during the pandemic, and that health messaging should be focused on youth and e-cigarette and cigarette use.
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READ MORE: A New Survey Links Vaping to Higher Covid-19 Risk [Wired]
More on vaping: Experts: Vaping Could Make Coronavirus Infection More Severe