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Is coronavirus more dangerous for smokers and vapers?

Published Apr 2nd, 2020 12:41PM EDT
coronavirus smoking
Image: Keystone-SDA/Shutterstock

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  • Smoking has been proven to damage lungs and hinders lung function, making it harder to recover from a coronavirus infection that progresses to the point of pneumonia. 
  • Research on the impact of vaping on the lungs is less concrete, but anything that can potentially affect the health of the lungs is likely to put you at greater risk of severe complications from a COVID-19 infection. 
  • Individuals who smoke or have compromised lungs from other factors should consider themselves at a higher risk of severe complications. 
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The novel coronavirus

may be more dangerous for individuals who smoke or vape, though research into the specific effects of the disease on individuals with these habits remains poor. Medical researchers have noted that the seriousness of a coronavirus infection can be partly determined based on whether or not the disease progresses past the initial cold- and flu-like symptoms to the point of pneumonia. In those cases, individuals with lung damage are more likely to need additional treatment.

Smoking damages the lungs. There’s really no debate to be had about that. As US News reports, researchers in China found that patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were 14 times as likely to develop pneumonia as a result of their infection than their non-smoking counterparts.

Pneumonia as a result of a coronavirus infection is being blamed as a primary cause of death for those who test positive for the virus. Having compromised lungs is obviously a major risk multiplier if the disease progresses to that point. Smoking cigarettes and even cannabis can potentially make things worse. However, smoking isn’t the only possible risk factor related to a lung condition.

There’s a severe lack of research into how vaping directly affects lung function, but some health experts argue that vaping hinders the function of pulmonary (lung) cells. If that is indeed the case, a person who vapes excessively may also find themselves at an enhanced risk of complications from a coronavirus infection.

At this point, the relatively small sample size of infected patients and a lack of in-depth research has made it difficult for doctors to conclusively say just how big of a factor vaping or even smoking really is. Anything that can make your lungs less healthy is bad news, of course, but does it mean catching the virus is a death sentence for smokers or vapers? Likely not, but it certainly won’t help matters.

If you’ve been considering quitting smoking or vaping already — or just needed an extra push or incentive to kick your habit — a respiratory viral pandemic sweeping across the planet should be plenty of motivation for you to do so. At this point, anything you can do to heighten your chances of making it through the pandemic is wise, so keep that in mind the next time you consider lighting up.

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