A new study found that teens and young adults who vape have a much higher risk of COVID-19 infection than their peers.
Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine led the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
To conduct the study, researchers in May collected data from online surveys completed by 4,351 participants ages 13 to 24 from across the country.
“The researchers recruited a sample of participants that was evenly divided between those who had used e-cigarettes and those who had never used nicotine products. The sample also included approximately equal numbers of people in different age groups (adolescent, young adult, and adult), races, and genders,” per a university release.
Those who participated were asked if they ever used a vaping device and if they had smoked or vaped in the past month.
“They were asked if they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, received a test for COVID-19 or received a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 after being tested,” per the release.
Among study participants tested for the virus, data showed that those who vaped were five times more likely to be infected. Young people who smoke cigarettes were also at an increased risk, the study found; they were seven times more likely to be infected.
“Given the predominance of e-cigarette use among U.S. youth, our investigation informs public health concerns that the ongoing youth e-cigarette epidemic contributes to the current COVID-19 pandemic,” study authors wrote.
“Heightened exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes adversely affects lung function,” researchers said.
Smoking lends itself to touching the face, and the study noted that COVID-19 can spread during repeated touching to the face. Researchers said it is a common practice among young e-cigarette users to share devices.
Given the findings, study authors said the Food and Drug Administration should “effectively regulate” e-cigarettes during the pandemic and called for more screening and education about the harms smoking inflicts to the respiratory and immune systems.
“This study tells us pretty clearly that youth who are using vapes or are dual-using [e-cigarettes and cigarettes] are at elevated risk, and it’s not just a small increase in risk; it’s a big one,” said Shivani Mathur Gaiha, the study’s lead author and postdoctoral research scholar at Stanford University, per a university release.