A new study by Stanford researchers found that teens and young adults who vape are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those who don’t. While young people who have both vaped and smoked cigarettes are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.
The proportion people aged 15 to 24 who are infected with COVID-19 rose three-fold in about five months according to the World Health Organisation. Apart from the United States—which leads a global tally with 5.2 million total cases—other countries including Spain, Germany, France, and Japan have said that many of the newly infected are young people as well.
The new study research doesn’t exactly reveal how vaping and smoking increases a young person’s likelihood of getting sick. It might be because of how vaping can affect the lungs or immune system, but it can also be due to the fact that vapers share devices and touch their faces more as they puff.
The paper’s findings are based on an online survey conducted in May 2020, involving 4,351 U.S. residents between the ages of 13 and 24. The sample roughly includes equal numbers of people of different ages, races, and genders, and the results were adjusted based on the number of COVID-19 cases in survey participants’, and whether participants followed shelter-in-place orders.
The paper is also population-based—not just based on people who already have COVID-19. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, the senior author of the study, explains that it makes it more of an unbiased sample.
The study advises health care providers, parents, schools, community-based organisations, and policymakers to “make youth aware of the connection between smoking and vaping and coronavirus disease.” Health care providers should also ask patients whether they have a history of vaping or smoking, so that it could give doctors a better understanding of how at-risk their young patients are during the pandemic.
“This is yet one more sign that e-cigarettes are unhealthy. Look, this is a pandemic… this is the time for you to quit and not start vaping,” said Halpern-Felsher.
In late May, The Health Ministry (MOH) said that 17.6 per cent of those who were infected and succumbed to COVID-19 were smokers with zero history of chronic illnesses. Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this was higher than the non-smokers at 12.1 per cent.