(Reuters) – Vaping may be associated with a five to seven times increased risk of COVID-19 among U.S. teenagers and young adults, a study published on Tuesday suggests.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed nationally representative survey data collected in May from 4,351 participants aged 13–24 years. The findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“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,” study leader Shivani Mathur Gaiha said in a press statement.
Participants were asked if they had ever used vaping devices or combustible cigarettes, whether they had vaped or smoked in the past 30 days, and if they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, been tested for COVID-19 or been diagnosed with the infectious disease.
Participants who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were 4.7 times more likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms compared with those who never smoked or vaped.
Among people tested for COVID-19, those who used just e-cigarettes were five times more likely to get a positive COVID-19 test result. Those who had ever used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the study found.
The study cannot prove that vaping causes COVID-19. The researchers note, however, that vaping involves the repeated touching of hands to the mouth and face, which is associated with the spread of COVID-19. Further, exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes causes lung damage.
The researchers hope their findings will prompt the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to effectively regulate e-cigarettes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; editing by Nancy Lapid and Steve Orlofsky