The study suggests that vaping raises your risk of catching the disease, but only if you stop.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D–Ill.), who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban e-cigarettes as a COVID-19 hazard. He cites a new study that supposedly shows “e-cigarette users are much likelier to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and to experience symptoms.” But contrary to what you may have read, that is not what the study actually found.
In May, Shivani Mathur Gaiha and two other Stanford researchers conducted an online survey of 4,351 Americans between the ages of 13 and 24, asking about smoking, vaping, and COVID-19 testing, symptoms, and diagnoses. They found that participants who had ever used e-cigarettes alone were five times as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 as people who never used nicotine products, a difference that was statistically significant. Yet participants who had vaped during the previous 30 days were less than twice as likely to have tested positive for COVID-19, and that difference was not statistically significant.
Reporting their results in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Gaiha et al. suggest “potential reasons” why vaping might increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. “Heightened exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes adversely affects lung function,” they write. “COVID-19 spreads through repeated touching of one’s hands to the mouth and face, which is common among cigarette and e-cigarette users. Furthermore, sharing devices (although likely reduced while staying at home) is also a common practice among youth e-cigarette users.”
Such speculation seems premature in light of the finding that current vaping is not associated with a statistically significant increase in COVID-19 risk. Given the confidence interval, it may even be associated with a reduced risk. Meanwhile, the increased risk among people who had ever vaped was large and statistically significant. It is hard to see how the “potential reasons” suggested by the researchers can explain these puzzling results, which imply that people who are still vaping face a lower risk than people who have tried e-cigarettes but do not currently use them.
Jacob Sullum – Reason – August 17, 2020.