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Another Risk Factor for COVID: Vaping

Young people's survey answers show smoking makes them much more vulnerable to virus
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2020 3:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – Researchers were not surprised when a survey showed that using e-cigarettes puts young people at greater risk from COVID-19. But they weren't prepared for the depth of the risk they found. Vapers age 13-24 were five times as likely to test positive for the coronavirus, Stanford University researchers say. Vapers who also smoke regular cigarettes are at seven times the risk, Wired reports. "I did not expect it to be this strong of a relationship," said one of the co-authors. Experts had warned early in the pandemic against smoking and vaping, but evidence of a link to the coronavirus had mostly been anecdotal. More than 4,000 people in the age group from every state provided information through the survey, which was posted in May on gaming and social media sites.

Another expert, who was not involved in the study, said she was "not at all surprised" by the results. Nicotine can impair the immune system, she said. And e-cigarettes can cause a number of problems, such as affecting a lipid layer in the lungs that traps viruses and the macrophages that remove them. "We're appreciating more and more that vaping is associated with lung injury," said Sharon Levy of Boston Children's Hospital. "Young people may believe their age will protect them from contracting the virus," one of the Stanford researchers said, "but the data show this isn't true among those who vape." Another of the study's authors said, per Stanford, that "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." (Read more vaping stories.)

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