Young people who vape e-cigarettes are more likely to contract the coronavirus, according to a study published Tuesday.
The study, conducted by Stanford University, found that youngsters between the ages of 13 and 24 are five times more likely to catch COVID-19 if they vape, while those who use e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes are seven times more likely.
“We were surprised,” Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, the study’s senior author, told NBC News.
“We expected to maybe see some relationship …. but certainly not at the odds ratios and the significance that we’re seeing it here.”
Researchers surveyed 4,351 participants from all 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and three US territories for the study. It’s the first national population-based analysis examining the relationship between vaping and coronavirus in young people.
Halpern-Felsher and her team told NBC there could be several reasons for the elevated risk of transmission. Vaping products can damage the lungs and have an effect on the immune system, making exposure that much more likely to cause an infection.
The researchers said there’s also a possibility that vapor can carry droplets containing the virus, which could spread to another person and be re-inhaled, akin to second-hand smoke.
In addition, social norms prevalent among vapers — such as hand-to-mouth contact and sharing vapes — are high-risk behaviors during a pandemic and more likely to cause an infection, the researchers said.
The medical relationship between COVID-19 and vaping still isn’t exactly clear but after taking variables like race, sex, state-specific infection rates and compliance with stay-at-home orders into account, the study’s authors said there is a clear public health risk when it comes to vaping during a pandemic.
“I think our findings have a very strong message to health care providers, parents, and teens,” said Halpern-Felsher. “If you are vaping and smoking, this is yet another sign that these products are hurting your body and your lungs.”