Teenagers ages 13 to 24 who have ever vaped were five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who never vaped, and those who have both vaped and used cigarettes in the past 30 days were seven times more likely to get COVID-19, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The study, conducted by Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a pediatric professor and researcher at Stanford University, and colleagues involved 4,351 teens and young adults from across the United States and was the first large study to look at whether vaping or smoking put young people at greater risk of getting COVID-19.
“We interpret the findings in a bunch of ways,” Dr. Halpern-Felsher told the East Hampton Star. “Vaping and smoking damage your lungs, and therefore if you are exposed to COVID, you are more likely to have symptoms or get sick. Or you take the mask down to vape and therefore you’re exposing yourself more to the virus, even if you’re outside with friends.”
Last fall, before the coronavirus became a pandemic, Halpern-Felsher spoke to students at East Hampton High School as part of a town hall about the dangers of vaping hosted by Beasley Allen Law Firm and organized by student advocates at the school who called themselves Breathe In Change.
Before the country began mandated closures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the group had visited local middle school students to talk about research and share the anti-vaping message. The group also went to Washington, D.C. to testify in front of Congress about vaping and its impact on students and schools. The pandemic halted their efforts, but only temporarily. News of Halpern-Felsher’s study has energized the student advocates to renew their push. This time, they are broadening their message to include all tobacco products, as many students who became addicted to the nicotine in vape products have turned to cigarettes.
“There’s a lot more cigarettes out here now,” said Lucia Ibrahim, an East Hampton senior and co-founder of Breathe In Change. She’s seen fellow students pull down their masks to smoke or vape, and even share vape devices, which can expose them to the virus.
“We need to add ‘JUULing’ during a pandemic as well as the link to cigarettes. That’s what it’s evolved to,” said Valeria Guevara, an East Hampton senior who also helped establish the group.
Halpern-Felsher said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to take action now to keep tobacco products out of the hands of youth. “We need the F.D.A. 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 diseases.”
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.