Vaping and smoking potentially increases risk of severe coronavirus infection
With the disease being so new, very little is known about COVID-19 apart from the fact that it is spreading at an alarming rate right now. Even so, there is enough existing evidence to suggest that smokers and vapers (e-cigarette users) may possibly be negatively affected by COVID-19. [Available at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smoking-or-vaping-may-increase-the-risk-of-a-severe-coronavirus-infection1/. Accessed on 30 March]
It is well established that vaping and smoking cause inflammation of the lungs and chronic lung conditions, said Dr Melodi Pirzada, chief paediatric pulmonologist, NYU Winthrop Hospital, New York, US. [Thorax. 2018;73:1161–1169, J Immunol. 2014;192(11):5226–5235] By extension, it is reasonable to assume that both smoking and vaping could increase the risk of developing serious infection from the coronavirus.Pirzada said this was due to the change in defense mechanism of the entire airway in smokers and vapers. A study in the Chinese Medical Journal seems to back this idea. The study, with a small sample pool of 78 patients, revealed that those with a history of smoking were 14 times more likely to develop pneumonia. [doi: 10.1097/CM9.0000000000000775]
The idea (that smokers and vapers might be disproportionately affected by severe COVID-19) is echoed by Robert Tarran, Ph.D, professor of cell biology and physiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, US. He said smoking is an established risk factor for influenza because those who smoke are immunosuppressed to some degree. According to Tarran, they also secrete more mucus, and thus do not clear the lungs as well. To compound matters, there are proinflammatory and immune cell changes, all of which lead up to an increased likelihood of getting infected and having worse outcomes.