CHICAGO – Not surprisingly, the American Lung Association (ALA) has issued a press release, warning people to stop smoking and vaping in relation to the global coronavirus crisis, which has infected nearly 1.9 million people and resulted in 108,304 deaths worldwide.
“It’s important to prevent getting COVID-19 in the first place, but it’s also essential that we do all we can to keep our lungs healthy to avoid the worst effects of the disease,” ALA Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, M.D. said in the press release.
“Smoking and vaping harms the lungs, leaving lung tissue inflamed, fragile, and susceptible to infection. And tobacco use has been proven to harm our immune system and airway-lining cells that contain cilia on their surface, which are our essential defenders against viruses like the novel coronavirus,” Dr. Rizzo added. “Without them working properly, the lungs may be left undefended against the virus and susceptible to the most severe complications of the infection.”
The press release went on to suggest there is no time like the present to quit smoking or vaping. The organization also cited a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and said, “People who smoke were 2.4 times more likely to have severe symptoms from COVID-19 compared to those who did not smoke.”
Respiratory experts also raised concerns about vaping and smoking in a post on the U.S. News and World Report website, published in late March, as the numbers of COVID-19 patients in the U.S. continued to rise, and states implemented “safer at home” protocols to try and slow the pandemic.
While experts worldwide are still researching the virus, it seems like conventional wisdom to suggest that cessation of smoking and vaping might lessen the chance of severe complications from coronavirus. One study “published online in the Chinese Medical Journal, found that, of 78 patients with COVID-19, those with a history of smoking were 14 times as likely to develop pneumonia,” the news platform noted.
“Vaping may be particularly harmful,” Dr. Dean Drosnes, medical director for the Pennsylvania campus of Caron Treatment Centers, told U.S. News.
“We are not sure, because the research is still new, but the aerosols that come out of vaping seem to harm pulmonary cells. So the potential is there that vaping makes someone more susceptible to contracting [COVID-19] because the cells can’t eliminate it, and may make the consequences worse because the lungs can’t clear the secretions,” Dr. Drosnes added.
Prior to the pandemic overwhelming global headlines, as well as the frontlines in hospitals around the world, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had been tracking EVALI, a vaping-related respiratory condition, which seems to have peaked in September 2019.
In the latest update to the CDC EVALI information page, as of mid-February, there were 2,807 diagnosed cases of EVALI, with patients located in all fifty U.S. states, and including sixty-eight deaths that were attributed to the condition.