Recently a number of reports have surfaced claiming that vaping radically increases susceptibility to COVID-19 infection among the young.

For example, Sky News reports:

Teenagers and young adults who vape may be up to seven times more likely to catch coronavirus, a study has found.

Researchers, who surveyed 4,351 Americans aged 13-24 years in May, found those who had used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

This report got a lot of media attention and some recommended much more stringent control of vaping as a response to the virus. One congress member wrote to the FDA to demand that vaping products be banned using the report's evidence.

There are some reasons to be skeptical of this report. Several studies have shown some protective effect of nicotine on COVID-19 infection or progression. One review argued the following:

...In light of these findings, they propose that pharmaceutical nicotine may be used as a potential treatment option in COVID-19. ... nicotine is relatively safe for human consumption at low concentrations as nicotine replacement therapy as well as nicotine-containing vaping and heated tobacco products...

That's two diametrically opposed opinions. One calls for nicotine delivery devices to be banned. Another proposes their use as a prophylactic against the virus (based on large studies of people actually ill with the disease). Which is right?

Is the claim from the congressman that vaping increases the risk of catching COVID-19 credible?

  • 2
    Are you possibly conflating nicotine with vaping? Indeed, vaping introduces nicotine into the lungs, but it also introduces many other things. Maybe the title and question should focus on vaping. The first and second quotes focus on each of these separately, it seems.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:11
  • 1
    Maybe I'm ahead of myself here, and an answer should address this.
    – user11643
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:14
  • 4
    It might be worth taking into account that vaping also includes behaviors that would increase one's probability of infectious contact. Cigarettes are single-use items generally contained, for the most part, in a package. Vaping uses a reusable device which, if you carry it in a pocket or leave it on a desk, could see multiple infection vectors if an infected individual is near it. Without hard evidence, I also suspect that younger users may be more inclined to share a vaping device with friends than cigarettes. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:42
  • 3
    I see three issues where this question goes further than the claims. 1) Title has false dilemma: Vaping may increase risk, it may reduce risk, it may do neither, it may do both (with different mechanisms).
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 22:01
  • 4
    3) The two claims do NOT contradict. One is claiming more infections. The other is claiming fewer serious consequences of acute lung injury. Vaping might BOTH increase the risk of catching COVID-19 and at the same time make it more likely to be mild (at least with this singular harm).
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 22:07


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