Vaping linked to COVID-19 risk in teens and young adults — Stanford analysis

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Data collected in May shows that teenagers and young adults who vape face a much higher risk of COVID-19 than their peers who do not vape, Stanford University researchers found. Vaping is linked to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 among teenagers and young adults, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study is the first to examine connections between youth vaping and COVID-19 using US population-based data collected during the pandemic. Among young people who were tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, the research found that those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not use e-cigarettes. “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,” said the study’s senior author, Dr Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of paediatrics.

“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,” said the study’s lead author, postdoctoral scholar Dr Shivani Mathur Gaiha. “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,” Gaiha said.

Data were collected via online surveys conducted in May. Surveys were completed by 4,351 participants ages 13 to 24 who lived in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and three US territories. 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.

Participants answered questions about whether they had ever used vaping devices or combustible cigarettes, as well as whether they had vaped or smoked in the past 30 days. 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.

The results were adjusted for confounding factors such as age, sex, LGBTQ status, race/ethnicity, mother’s level of education, body mass index, compliance with shelter-in-place orders, rate of COVID-19 diagnosis in the states where the participants were residing, and state and regional trends in e-cigarette use.

Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped. This may explain why they were also more likely to receive COVID-19 testing, said Halpern-Felsher, especially given that in May, many regions limited COVID-19 testing to people with symptoms. Depending on which nicotine products they used and how recently they had used them, young people who vaped or smoked, or both, were 2.6 to nine times more likely to receive COVID-19 tests than nonusers.

Among the participants who were tested for COVID-19, those who had ever used e-cigarettes were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than nonusers. Those who had used both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in the previous 30 days were 6.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. The researchers did not find a connection between COVID-19 diagnosis and smoking conventional cigarettes alone, perhaps because the prevalent pattern among youth is to use both vaping devices and traditional cigarettes. Other research has shown that nearly all nicotine-using youth vape, and some also smoke cigarettes, but very few use cigarettes only, Halpern-Felsher said.

In line with other recent COVID-19 research, the study found that lower socioeconomic status and Hispanic or multiracial ethnicity were linked to a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

In addition to warning teenagers and young adults about the dangers of vaping, the researchers hope their findings will prompt the US Food and Drug Administration to further tighten regulations governing how vaping products are sold to young people.
“Now is the time,” Halpern-Felsher said. “We need the FDA to hurry up and regulate these products. And we need to tell everyone: If you are a vaper, you are putting yourself at risk for COVID-19 and other lung disease.”

A statistician at the University of California-San Francisco also contributed to the research, which was funded by the Taube Research Faculty Scholar Endowment; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and the US Food and Drug Administration Centre for Tobacco Products.

Abstract
Purpose: This study aimed to assess whether youth cigarette and electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use are associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) symptoms, testing, and diagnosis.
Methods: An online national survey of adolescents and young adults (n = 4,351) aged 13–24 years was conducted in May 2020. Multivariable logistic regression assessed relationships among COVID-19–related symptoms, testing, and diagnosis and cigarettes only, e-cigarettes only and dual use, sociodemographic factors, obesity, and complying with shelter-in-place.
Results: COVID-19 diagnosis was five times more likely among ever-users of e-cigarettes only (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.82–13.96), seven times more likely among ever-dual-users (95% CI: 1.98–24.55), and 6.8 times more likely among past 30-day dual-users (95% CI: 2.40–19.55). Testing was nine times more likely among past 30-day dual-users (95% CI: 5.43–15.47) and 2.6 times more likely among past 30-day e-cigarette only users (95% CI: 1.33–4.87). Symptoms were 4.7 times more likely among past 30-day dual-users (95% CI: 3.07–7.16).
Conclusions: COVID-19 is associated with youth use of e-cigarettes only and dual use of e-cigarettes and cigarettes, suggesting the need for screening and education.

Authors
Shivani MathurGaiha, JingCheng, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher

 

Stanford University material

 

Journal of Adolescent Health abstract

Receive Medical Brief's free weekly e-newsletter



Related Posts

Thank you for subscribing to MedicalBrief


MedicalBrief is Africa’s premier medical news and research weekly newsletter. MedicalBrief is published every Thursday and delivered free of charge by email to over 33 000 health professionals.

Please consider completing the form below. The information you supply is optional and will only be used to compile a demographic profile of our subscribers. Your personal details will never be shared with a third party.


Thank you for taking the time to complete the form.