COVID-19 and vaping: Do you know myth from fact?

Close-up image of teen vaping
Do you know the facts about vaping and COVID-19 risk? (Image: Adobe Stock; Illustration: Dave Chrisom, Boston Children's)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, researchers continue to learn more about what puts people at risk for getting sick and who is most likely to have a severe form of the illness. One of the many questions has been about vaping and COVID-19 risk.

For answers, we turned to Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Use & Addiction (ASAP) Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dr. Alicia Casey, who cares for children and teens with lung disease at Boston Children’s. Take our quiz and test your knowledge.

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True or False? There is no proof that vaping increases the risk of COVID-19.

False. Dr. Casey says recent studies have shown a connection between vaping and an increased risk of COVID-19. “One One study in the Journal of Adolescent Medicine found that teens and young adults who had ever vaped were five times more likely to have symptoms for COVID-19, to get tested, and to test positive,” says Dr. Casey. “Those who had vaped and smoked regular cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”

False. Dr. Casey says recent studies have shown a connection between vaping and an increased risk of COVID-19. “One One study in the Journal of Adolescent Medicine found that teens and young adults who had ever vaped were five times more likely to have symptoms for COVID-19, to get tested, and to test positive,” says Dr. Casey. “Those who had vaped and smoked regular cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”

False. Dr. Casey says recent studies have shown a connection between vaping and an increased risk of COVID-19. “One study in the Journal of Adolescent Medicine found that teens and young adults who had ever vaped were five times more likely to have symptoms for COVID-19, to get tested, and to test positive,” says Dr. Casey. “Those who had vaped and smoked regular cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”

True or False? Vaping can put young people at higher risk of developing severe disease.
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True. “Doctors are reporting cases of more severe presentation in young people with COVID-19 who vape, but we have no data on severity of COVID-19 in the setting of vaping yet to prove a relationship,” says Dr. Casey. “The research to date shows that people who vape are more likely to have chronic respiratory symptoms, and potential lung injury from vaping. So if you have any lung injury from vaping or smoking, you would potentially be at higher risk for more severe disease from COVID-19.”

True. “Doctors are reporting cases of more severe presentation in young people with COVID-19 who vape, but we have no data on severity of COVID-19 in the setting of vaping yet to prove a relationship,” says Dr. Casey. “The research to date shows that people who vape are more likely to have chronic respiratory symptoms, and potential lung injury from vaping. So if you have any lung injury from vaping or smoking, you would potentially be at higher risk for more severe disease from COVID-19.”

True. “Doctors are reporting cases of more severe presentation in young people with COVID-19 who vape, but we have no data on severity of COVID-19 in the setting of vaping yet to prove a relationship,” says Dr. Casey. “The research to date shows that people who vape are more likely to have chronic respiratory symptoms, and potential lung injury from vaping. So if you have any lung injury from vaping or smoking, you would potentially be at higher risk for more severe disease from COVID-19.”

True or False? The behavioral patterns of people who vape may increase their risk.
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True. “Young people who vape often do certain things that put them at high risk for exposure,” says Dr. Levy. “Many are vaping in a group, not wearing masks, and are forcibly exhaling. Some are also sharing devices,” Dr. Levy says that the buzz they get from vaping may make them less inclined to follow social distancing guidelines.

True. “Young people who vape often do certain things that put them at high risk for exposure,” says Dr. Levy. “Many are vaping in a group, not wearing masks, and are forcibly exhaling. Some are also sharing devices,” Dr. Levy says that the buzz they get from vaping may make them less inclined to follow social distancing guidelines.

True. “Young people who vape often do certain things that put them at high risk for exposure,” says Dr. Levy. “Many are vaping in a group, not wearing masks, and are forcibly exhaling. Some are also sharing devices,” Dr. Levy says that the buzz they get from vaping may make them less inclined to follow social distancing guidelines.

True or False? Teens are vaping less now because they are home more.
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False. “Though overall vaping use among teens is down, we’re finding that those who do vape are using as much or more during the lockdown, because expectations are dropped and everyone’s schedule is off,” says Dr. Levy. “Also, COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety and depression, and many kids are using vapes to help them cope, because nicotine gives them a quick release.”

False. “Though overall vaping use among teens is down, we’re finding that those who do vape are using as much or more during the lockdown, because expectations are dropped and everyone’s schedule is off,” says Dr. Levy. “Also, COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety and depression, and many kids are using vapes to help them cope, because nicotine gives them a quick release.”

False. “Though overall vaping use among teens is down, we’re finding that those who do vape are using as much or more during the lockdown, because expectations are dropped and everyone’s schedule is off,” says Dr. Levy. “Also, COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety and depression, and many kids are using vapes to help them cope, because nicotine gives them a quick release.”

True or False? Vaping doesn’t hurt anyone else.
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False. “When you’re vaping, you’re taking an electronic liquid and aerosolizing it. This leaves an aerosol cloud around you that hangs out in the air, even after you’ve left a room,” says Dr. Casey. “So if you’re vaping in a classroom or bathroom or in another indoor space, the person who is sitting next to you or uses the bathroom after you can inhale those aerosol droplets and potentially be exposed to COVID-19.”

False. “When you’re vaping, you’re taking an electronic liquid and aerosolizing it. This leaves an aerosol cloud around you that hangs out in the air, even after you’ve left a room,” says Dr. Casey. “So if you’re vaping in a classroom or bathroom or in another indoor space, the person who is sitting next to you or uses the bathroom after you can inhale those aerosol droplets and potentially be exposed to COVID-19.”

False. “When you’re vaping, you’re taking an electronic liquid and aerosolizing it. This leaves an aerosol cloud around you that hangs out in the air, even after you’ve left a room,” says Dr. Casey. “So if you’re vaping in a classroom or bathroom or in another indoor space, the person who is sitting next to you or uses the bathroom after you can inhale those aerosol droplets and potentially be exposed to COVID-19.”

True or False? The lung condition known as EVALI is no longer a problem
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False. “Many kids think e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) is gone, but they’re just not hearing about it as much because of coronavirus,” says Dr. Casey. “I don’t think the EVALI story is over. We are still admitting patients, many of whom think they have COVID-19 at first, and get tested several times because the symptoms are similar.”

False. “Many kids think e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) is gone, but they’re just not hearing about it as much because of coronavirus,” says Dr. Casey. “I don’t think the EVALI story is over. We are still admitting patients, many of whom think they have COVID-19 at first, and get tested several times because the symptoms are similar.”

False. “Many kids think e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) is gone, but they’re just not hearing about it as much because of coronavirus,” says Dr. Casey. “I don’t think the EVALI story is over. We are still admitting patients, many of whom think they have COVID-19 at first, and get tested several times because the symptoms are similar.”

True or False? EVALI was actually early cases of COVID-19.
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False. “Though the symptoms are similar, EVALI and COVID-19 are two separate conditions,” says Dr. Casey. “From what we know about how COVID-19 spreads, there’s no way we would have had early outbreaks last summer without it spreading to a wider population.”

False. “Though the symptoms are similar, EVALI and COVID-19 are two separate conditions,” says Dr. Casey. “From what we know about how COVID-19 spreads, there’s no way we would have had early outbreaks last summer without it spreading to a wider population.”

False. “Though the symptoms are similar, EVALI and COVID-19 are two separate conditions,” says Dr. Casey. “From what we know about how COVID-19 spreads, there’s no way we would have had early outbreaks last summer without it spreading to a wider population.”

True or False? Most kids don’t really want to quit vaping.
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False. “We find a lot of kids do want to cut down or quit, and for some kids, the fear of coronavirus was the last straw,” says Dr. Levy. “But it’s hard to quit nicotine and teens are often overconfident in their ability to control things. The ASAP Program can help with withdrawal and support kids with quitting. We’re doing virtual visits, with both kids and parents.”

False. “We find a lot of kids do want to cut down or quit, and for some kids, the fear of coronavirus was the last straw,” says Dr. Levy. “But it’s hard to quit nicotine and teens are often overconfident in their ability to control things. The ASAP Program can help with withdrawal and support kids with quitting. We’re doing virtual visits, with both kids and parents.”

False. “We find a lot of kids do want to cut down or quit, and for some kids, the fear of coronavirus was the last straw,” says Dr. Levy. “But it’s hard to quit nicotine and teens are often overconfident in their ability to control things. The ASAP Program can help with withdrawal and support kids with quitting. We’re doing virtual visits, with both kids and parents.”

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Learn more about the ASAP Program and get more answers about Boston Children’s response to COVID-19.

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