In 2020 we saw the biggest pandemic of recent history, the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak. Related to the H1N1 Virus, COVID-19 spread quickly across the globe, causing governments to close their borders and institute “lockdowns” to help prevent the spread of the disease. As coronavirus is a disease that affects the respiratory system, there has been a lot of concern and conversation about how it affects smokers and vapers particularly.
Like all things to do with vaping, there is considerable research being carried out into the effects of vaping on both the likelihood of contracting coronavirus, and the severity of COVID-19 cases for those who do vape. This research is, obviously, ongoing, but there are a few different conclusions that can be made about the relationship between coronavirus and vaping. One important thing to take into account, however, is the fact that all health bodies recommend that smokers try to quit as soon as possible, and that vaping can be an incredibly effective measure to help you do so. Smoking can make you much sicker if you do contract coronavirus, so quitting is something that is not just good for your long-term health, but could save your life in the short-term. Smoking also increases your risk of contracting respiratory diseases, like coronavirus.
What is the Link Between Vaping & Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, the answer is that we simply can’t be sure. The field of study around vaping is one that is always changing, developing and progressing, and the field of study around COVID-19 is brand new, making it very difficult for experts to draw any concrete conclusions around the relationship between the two.
Vapers who became unwell after the recent lung disease outbreak (which was traced back to unsafe THC vape products in the US) are much more at risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill due to coronavirus, due to their compromised immune system and poor respiratory health. Like other people who are immunocompromised or have poor respiratory health for whatever reason, you should stay at home and shield yourself as far as possible from others. This means minimising contact with other people and staying away from busy public places as much as possible.
However, for the vast majority of vapers who haven’t experienced any adverse effects from vaping, the advice is to quit if you can as a precaution, but that generally people will not have vaped for long enough to cause great harm to their respiratory system, if it does turn out that vaping is harmful to your health. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that vaping is harmful to your health, wither in the long or short term, but there is also not enough evidence available to say that is is safe either.
For recreational vapers, this means that many medical professionals hope that the COVID-19 outbreak will be a good incentive to reduce the amount they vape, or ideally quit altogether. Many hobby vapers, including those who vape with low or nicotine-free e-liquids, are being encouraged to stop vaping if possible as a precautionary measure. However, for vapers who use vaping as a nicotine replacement therapy to stop smoking, the advice is clear. You should not quit vaping if it means you’ll go back to using traditional tobacco cigarettes. Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your health in the current COVID-19 outbreak, so whatever measures you need to take to stop smoking, you should.
Is Vaping Better than Smoking?
While the evidence available on the long-term safety of vapes is still developing, we do know that it is far less harmful to your health than smoking. E-cigarettes can be an incredibly effective aid to help you quit smoking, and is more effective than other nicotine replacement therapies like gums, patches, sprays and lozenges. Vaping is far less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking is, so if you vape to help keep you off traditional cigarettes, you should continue to do this.
If it is possible to for you to switch to a different nicotine replacement therapy that doesn’t involve inhaling without feeling the need to go back to smoking cigarettes, it is currently recommended that you do this. If you struggle without your vape however, you should always return to vaping rather than smoking. The NHS and Public Health England position is that while there is no current evidence showing that vaping makes you more susceptible to COVID-19, the likelihood is that the risk is much smaller than if you smoke. The most important thing to take away from this advice is that you should avoid returning to cigarette smoking for your health and safety both during the coronavirus outbreak and in the long-term.
Smoking also carries the risk of secondhand smoke, which can be very detrimental to the health of those who spend a lot of time with smokers or live in a smoking household. This may make those who are close to you more susceptible to coronavirus, even if they don’t smoke themselves. Public Health England’s 2018 review found that there are “no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders.” However, you should still try to avoid exhaling large vape clouds while around others as a precaution.
How to Vape Safely
While there is very little concrete evidence on how vaping and coronavirus interact, there are several precautions you can take to make vaping a bit safer for you:
- Use a low or nicotine-free e-liquid where possible, and try to vape less often.
- Make sure you clean your e-cigarette regularly, ideally with alcohol.
- Wash your hands more frequently with soap and water, including before and after you vape to reduce the chance of the virus being passed from your hands to your mouth. You should use hand sanitiser if soap isn’t available.
- Try not to vape in groups, or make sure you maintain distance from other smokers or vapers if this isn’t possible