COVID-19 is a frightening illness, and there is a lot that we don’t know about it. However, there is also a great deal of misinformation being spread about the disease, with some of that misinformation seemingly designed to scare people away from vaping and force them back to smoking. Some people, in other words, appear to be using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to advance their own political agendas against vaping. The way that some so-called experts have been talking lately, you’d think they actually believe it is safer to smoke than vape – and believe it or not, some people really do believe that.
To make matters worse, the efforts to contain COVID-19 have resulted in the temporary closure of “non-essential businesses” across the country. Vape shops, in most cases, have closed in cities under lockdown orders. Gas stations and supermarkets, meanwhile, remain open – which means that some people are now in a situation in which they can buy cigarettes locally but can’t buy e-liquid unless they order it online. Online vape shops like Vape Juice remain ready to ship e-liquid to you, of course, but you might still encounter a problem if you run out of e-liquid and can’t buy vape juice locally while you’re waiting for your shipment to arrive.
So, if you’ve felt the temptation to smoke cigarettes while you’re waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end, you can rest assured that you’re not the only one. After all, mainstream media sources lately have been talking about vaping and smoking as if they’re practically the same thing – so if you’re having trouble getting e-liquid, you might as well choose the easier option, right?
No – you definitely should not go back to smoking.
It’s time to set the record straight about vaping and COVID-19. Roberto Sussman (Ph.D., National University of Mexico) and Carmen Escrig (Ph.D., Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) have teamed up to create a document busting the most common myths about the coronavirus outbreak and vaping, and we’d like to share some of the high points here.
Before we explain that document in detail, though, let’s discuss the answer to the biggest question that might be on your mind. We bet that you’ve already seen this coming, but…
You Should Not Let COVID-19 Drive You Back to Smoking
Right now, vapers in some communities face an incredibly unpleasant situation in which cigarettes may actually be easier to buy locally than e-liquid. If you’re dealing with that situation – and you’re reading in some news outlets that smoking and vaping can both increase your chance of getting COVID-19 – you might be tempted to return to smoking “just until this is over.”
However, you should definitely not do that.
As you’re about to learn, there is no proven connection between vaping and an increased likelihood of COVID-19 infection or worsening of symptoms. We know, though, that smoking increases your likelihood of developing complications from any illness affecting the lungs. Also, even if you haven’t smoked in a long time – and even if you only do it for a little while – returning to smoking would drastically increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Also, you shouldn’t forget that returning to smoking “just for now” can quickly become a full-blown addiction that’s incredibly difficult to kick. The fact that you quit smoking once doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll find it easy to do so again.
Don’t believe us? Television newscaster Peter Jennings had been a nonsmoker for 20 years when the stress of covering the events of 9/11 became too great for him to bear. He returned to smoking, and within a few years, he was dead of lung cancer. If you return to smoking after a long time without tobacco, your past can come back to haunt you very quickly.
People are rightfully afraid for their health and the health of their loved ones right now. Don’t compound that problem by doing the absolute worst thing for your health that you could possibly do. The death toll from COVID-19 has been horrifying, but don’t lose sight of the fact that more than 1,300 Americans die every day from cigarette smoking. Multiply that number by 10, and that’s how many people in the world die every day from cigarette smoking. That’s more than 13,000 people dead from smoking, every single day. Just don’t do it.
If you’ve misjudged your e-liquid supply and are in a bind while waiting for a shipment to arrive, don’t smoke even a single cigarette. Get to your local pharmacy and buy some nicotine lozenges instead. You’ll thank yourself later for making the right decision.
Now, let’s learn more about vaping and COVID-19.
There Is No Proof That Vaping Increases the Risk of COVID-19 Contraction or Complications
One of the things that you’ll see quite often when you read the news about COVID-19 is a plea to stop vaping if you want to minimize your risk. It’s important, though, to remember a few very important things when you read the news.
- There is no proof that vaping increases your chance of contracting COVID-19 or of developing complications if you do contract the illness. However, there is also no proof that it doesn’t increase your risk.
- Many of those who vape likely had long histories of smoking before they switched to vaping. If a person who vapes gets sick, the onset of illness or worsening of symptoms could actually have come as a result of the underlying health issues caused by smoking.
- We know for certain that smoking inflames the lungs and weakens the immune system. If you decide to make the personal decision to quit vaping as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, you can do that, but you definitely should not go back to smoking.
- Sussman and Escrig believe that, compared to smoking, vaping would likely improve your outcome in the event of a COVID-19 infection because switching to vaping improves cardiovascular and respiratory health.
There Is No Proof That Propylene Glycol Disinfects the Lungs
Not long after the COVID-19 outbreak began, a rumor began to make its way around Reddit. The rumor suggested that, because propylene glycol is a known disinfectant, vaping could actually reduce your odds of contracting the virus. Unfortunately, though, that’s just wishful thinking.
Propylene glycol is an effective disinfectant under controlled conditions, and it’s used in commercial disinfecting products for that reason. To disinfect a surface, though, propylene glycol vapor needs to be sprayed in an even coating on that surface and left there for a while. You can’t replicate those conditions in vaping, and even if you could, coating your lungs in propylene glycol would probably have other negative health implications.
The Risk of COVID-19 Contraction Through Vapor Is Minimal but Greater Than Zero
Drs. Sussman and Escrig believe that the risk of infecting another person with the coronavirus – or becoming infected yourself – through e-cigarette vapor is minimal. Exhaled e-cigarette vapor would likely contain only slightly more virus-carrying droplets than regular sedentary breathing. The droplets are heavy, and they fall to the ground much more quickly than e-cigarette vapor.
So, while people might get nervous when they see large vapor clouds hovering in the air, there’s really no reason to be afraid. The virus-containing droplets – if there ever were any – have already fallen to the ground.
There are no confirmed reports of any person contracting COVID-19 through e-cigarette vapor. While people do expel air with slightly greater force when vaping than they do in normal breathing, the expulsion isn’t nearly as forceful as it would be during coughing or sneezing.
That being said, however, there is no person who can say that the risk of infection through vaping is absolutely zero. Therefore, Drs. Sussman and Escrig suggest that vapers take a few extra steps to minimize their risks.
What Do Drs. Sussman and Escrig Recommend for Vapers During the COVID-19 Outbreak?
Drs. Sussman and Escrig recommend that vapers take the following precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- If you have already stopped smoking cigarettes, you should not go back to smoking. Smoking definitely harms your immune system, and it also increases your risk of developing other tobacco-related illnesses.
- Avoid vaping in enclosed spaces during the COVID-19 outbreak. That’s partially for the safety of others and partially because you wouldn’t want to attract negative attention during a very stressful time.
- Exercise normal social distancing guidelines when in public, regardless of whether you are vaping or not. Stand at least two meters from other people in public. Avoid vaping around strangers. That’s more for your safety than theirs; during this time of heightened stress, vaping around someone who doesn’t vape could cause an unwanted confrontation.
- Switch to a lower-wattage vaping device such as a pod system when vaping in public. When you use a low-power device, you’ll exhale much smaller clouds, and you’ll exhale those clouds with less force. Therefore, the odds of a stranger becoming unhappy upon seeing that you’re vaping should be greatly lessened. You could even stealth vape if you’re using a low-power device; stealth vaping would be essentially impossible with a powerful sub-ohm device.