Vapers are putting themselves at increased risk from coronavirus, scientists have said after finding that those who use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.

Stanford University scientists believe damage to the lungs caused by vaping may allow the virus to take hold more easily.

A team of paediatric specialists surveyed 4,351 young people between the ages of 13 and 24, asking them about their vaping habits and whether they used regular cigarettes. They also carried out swab testing on those who reported symptoms of coronavirus. 

The research found that those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not use e-cigarettes.

“Teens and young adults need to know that, if you use e-cigarettes, you are likely at immediate risk of Covid-19 because you are damaging your lungs,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of paediatrics at Stanford and the senior author on the study. 

“We need to tell everyone: If you are a vaper, you are putting yourself at risk for Covid-19 and other lung disease.”

The results were adjusted for other factors that could have skewed the findings, such as age, sex, ethnicity, education, BMI (body mass index), the number of cases of coronavirus in a local area and regional trends in e-cigarette use.

Young people who had vaped or smoked in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience Covid-19 symptoms such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped. 

This may explain why they were also more likely to receive Covid-19 testing, said Prof Halpern-Felsher.

Depending on which nicotine products they used and how recently they had used them, young people who vaped or smoked, or both, were 2.6 to nine times more likely to receive Covid-19 tests than non-users.

Those who had used both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in the previous 30 days were 6.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. 

The researchers did not find a connection between Covid-19 diagnosis and smoking conventional cigarettes alone.

“Young people may believe their age protects them from contracting the virus or that they will not experience symptoms of Covid-19, but the data show this isn’t true among those who vape,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Shivani Mathur Gaiha.

In line with other recent Covid-19 research, the study found that lower socioeconomic status and Hispanic or multi-racial ethnicity were linked to a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

The research was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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