A recent study, published online Aug. 11, 2020 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that vaping is linked to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 among teenagers and young adults. The study, led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, found that young people who vaped were five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who did not vape.
Online surveys were completed by 4,351 participants, ages 13 to 24, living in the United States. Participants answered questions about whether they had ever vaped, or vaped and also smoked tobacco cigarettes, as well as whether they had vaped or had vaped and also smoked in the past 30 days. The researchers recruited a sample of e-cigarette users (50.2%) and nonusers (49.8%); adolescents (aged 13–17; 33.7%), young adults (aged 18–20 years; 41.6%), and adults (aged 21–24 years; 24.7%).
Participants also answered questions about whether they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, if they had been tested and if they had received a positive test result for COVID-19. Young people who vaped within the previous 30 days often experienced COVID-19-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing, and, thus, were more likely to receive COVID-19 testing.
The results of the study showed that COVID-19 diagnosis was five times more likely among participants who consistently vaped, seven times more likely among participants who consistently vaped and also smoked and 6.8 times more likely among participants who vaped and also smoked within the past 30 days. In addition, COVID-19 testing was 2.6 times more likely among participants who vaped in the past 30 days and nine times more likely among participants who had vaped and also smoked in the past 30 days.
Interestingly, smoking tobacco cigarettes was associated with only COVID-19 testing, while vaping and vaping and also smoking, whether consistently or within the past 30 days, were associated with both COVID-19 testing and positive diagnosis.
The researchers did adjust their sample to be representative of the U.S. population and included confounders, such as age, sex, LGBTQ status, race and ethnicity, as well as regional trends in the use of vaping devices. The study was also adjusted for obesity, which was found as an underlying risk factor among 13 to 24 year olds.
However, the researchers did not ask participants about hospitalization or severity of symptoms and, thus, could not ascertain which participants were infected with COVID-19 but asymptomatic.
The authors concluded their findings show that, among adolescents and young adults, vaping as well as vaping and also smoking “are significant underlying risk factors for COVID-19 that has previously not been shown.”
Gaiha, Shivani Mathur, et al. “Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and Coronavirus Disease 2019.” Journal of Adolescent Health, 11 Aug. 2020, doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.07.002.