Vaping Epidemic: New Concerns with COVID-19

  • As many of you are aware, in recent years vaping has become a phenomenon across the country, particularly amongst teens and young adults.  Now more than ever we need to be proactive in educating our teenagers about the dangers of vaping, especially in light of recent data indicating a relationship with vaping and Covid-19.  Young people may think they are not at much risk with the virus, however recent studies are showing an increased risk with vaping and Covid-19 due to the effect on the respiratory and immune systems.

    A study published in October 2020 by the Journal of Adolescent Health entitled "Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and COVID-19" found that those adolescents who reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days were 2.6 times more likely to have had COVID-19 testing. Furthermore, the study found that adolescents who reported ever using an e-cigarette were 5 times more likely to have a COVID-19 diagnosis. These findings indicate vaping as a "significant underlying risk factor” for COVID-19.



    Electronic Smoking Devices:

Visual example of electronic smoking device
Visual example of electronic smoking device
  • Electronic Smoking Devices (ESD), including JUULs, e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and vape pens, are battery operated devices designed to mimic the look and feel of a real cigarette. ESDs contain cartridges that are typically filled with:

    • Flavorings (sometimes referred to as “juice”)
      • Long-term inhalation of diacetyl, an additive that gives vape “juice” its flavoring, can lead to a condition known as “popcorn lung” with irreversible symptoms similar to that of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • Nicotine...
      • is a very addictive substance.
      • has serious systemic side effects.
      • adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lung, kidney, and other bodily systems.
      • withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, constipation/diarrhea, and many others. 
      • can be fatal if a toddler accidentally ingested less than a half teaspoon of nicotine-containing e-cigarette solution.
      • content in one pod is equivalent to a full pack of cigarettes.
    • THC - the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana
      • Compared to dry cannabis plant matter, which usually contains THC levels between 1-30%, the level of THC in ESD’s can be up to 90%.
      • Higher levels of THC concentrate can lead to higher levels of THC tolerance and dependence.

    Myth versus Fact:

    Myth:
    What’s the harm? It’s only water.
    Fact: Water is not an ingredient in vaporizers or vape pens. The aerosol (incorrectly called vapor) contains hazardous ultrafine particles and cancer-causing toxins that lodge deeply in the lungs.

    Myth: Vaping is safe.
    Fact: ESDs are not a proven smoking cessation device; in fact, they are an alternative nicotine delivery device that initiates, maintains, or restores the habit and can hook a new generation addicted to nicotine.  Presently vape products and content are unregulated by any governing body. Ingredients in a vape cartridge are dangerous and tampering is also a real possibility.

    Myth: E-cigarettes don't contain nicotine.
    Fact: Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, including many that claim they are nicotine-free. A 2014 study showed wide-ranging nicotine, a highly addictive substance, levels in e-cigarettes and inconsistencies between listed and actual nicotine levels in these products. This could be starting a nicotine addiction that keeps users returning to smoking/vaping habits which can be difficult to break.

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC), medical experts, and other agencies are working to better understand the impact of vaping and its underlying causation of harm.

    ESDs are strictly prohibited on school grounds and at all LRHSD functions.


    Resources: 

    If you or your student would like more information about the dangers of vaping or how to quit, please contact the Student Assistance Counselor at your high school:

    Center for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

    You can download Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents.


    In the News:

    Vaping and COVID-19 Risk from Stanford Medicine News Center