(Image courtesy of Dimitri Lin)
California School of the Arts

Opinion: Smoking and vaping is never healthy, but especially risky during COVID-19

Many of us are dying to return to our normal lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us a colossal wave of uncertainty and change.

We hope that life would gradually return to normal, but we also hope to remain safe and healthy and not contract this disease. If and when school eventually reopens in fall, it’s valuable that we continue to practice some form of social distancing, or at the very least increased awareness for ourselves and each other until an effective vaccine or treatment has been developed.

The future is uncertain, so what matters is what we do under our current circumstances to ensure our health and safety. Of course, good nutrition, hydration, a healthy mindset and exercise are valuable, but there is one more thing: don’t vape.

These times have put upon us all an undue amount of stress and anxiety, and some of us may resort to reaching for a vape or smoke to blow off some steam. Don’t do it. Resist the itch. Now’s no time to compromise your health.

Vaping has never been a safe practice. Those who vape are significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes and experiment with other addictive substances, according to research done by the Sydney School of Public Health.

Also, the processes used to manufacture the devices and chemicals expose the user to a slew of unknown and possibly dangerous chemicals and additives.

There has been a consistent and defined link between vaping and lung damage and disease.

Many of the additives used to flavor vaping products, as well as the solvent for said products, are possible causative agents for bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung,” and a cluster of other difficult-to-treat lung illnesses collectively known as EVALI, or e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury, according to an inquiry by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

Currently, the research into the connections between smoking, vaping and COVID-19 infections are quite preliminary, but there already exists conclusive evidence that smoking and vaping can undermine lung function.

A study by the Medical University of Warsaw demonstrates that the chemicals present in cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor have been proven to suppress the immune system of the lungs – leaving the lungs more vulnerable to infections like COVID-19.

The same chemicals also have the ability to induce inflammation, which severely hinders the ability of the body to process oxygen efficiently by causing swelling and fluid accumulation.

In another investigation by the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine from the Central Hospital of Wuhan, the correlation between a history of smoking and an increased likelihood of developing a more serious form of COVID-19 infection.

The coronavirus has a specific mechanism for entering and infecting cells. ACE-2, a transmembrane protein responsible for catalyzing proteins within the body, serves as an entry point for certain coronaviruses (including the kind that causes COVID-19.)

The kind of lung damage associated with the inhalation of noxious fumes and chemicals (such as those produced by smoking and vaping) has been shown to increase the expression of ACE-2 on the membranes of pulmonary cells, hence making them more prone to infection by the virus, according to research conducted by the Centre for Heart-Lung Innovation in the University of British Columbia.

Henceforth, those who have damaged their lungs through these practices are at a significantly higher risk of contracting the disease. This, combined with the immunosuppression and inflammation, puts smokers and vape users at a great disadvantage.

Smoking and vaping are often done in groups — I’ve seen people sharing vapes with each other while huddled together in the bathrooms. When one smokes or vapes, they inhale a blend of burnt or vaporized chemicals and exhale them back out along with some of the residual moisture and pulmonary secretions from within their lungs.

If a person infected with COVID-19 (or any pulmonary pathogen) smokes or vapes and expels the contents of their lungs, they’re subjecting those around them to a fine aerosol of dangerous chemicals mixed with the infectious agent.

The smoke and vapors aren’t the only unsafe aspects of these practices; the mere act of doing so is risky enough, especially with vaping. As mentioned, many often share their vapes amongst each other.

COVID-19 primarily spreads through the exposure of contaminated bodily fluids such as saliva and mucus — the act of passing around and using a vape can very efficiently spread the virus among a group.

Smoking and vaping aren’t healthy behaviors. However, during a pandemic, it becomes even more unsafe. Not only does it increase the chance of you getting sick, but it also increases the chance of others getting sick.

These are very uncertain times, so the last thing anyone wants is to get sick. Now, our duty is to prepare ourselves mentally and physically and be the best we can. We know not of what the future holds for us — not even the leaders in the highest echelons of government do.

Therefore, we must keep ourselves in peak condition in order to be set for what’s to come, and staying healthy is the first step of that. Maybe you’re looking for a good reason to quit or otherwise stay way. Let COVID-19 be that reason for you.