When it comes to tackling the threat of COVID-19, it is important to be educated, aware, and responsible when dealing with news. However, with so much commentary flooding our devices, it can be difficult to get a true understanding of the issues involved – especially with issues around vaping, smoking, and successfully tackling the effects of the coronavirus.
So, where are we in our response efforts, and what are the experts saying about the risks involved with smoking and the coronavirus?
What’s the Latest Regarding COVID-19?
Thankfully, the UK is taking active measures to tackle the crisis by following the coronavirus action plan that was first published on 3rd March. This sets out a number of initiatives for UK citizens to follow, including:
- Only leaving your home to buy food, for reasons related to your health, or for professional reasons if you are unable to work from your property
- Enacting social distancing by staying at least two metres/six feet away from shoppers or others
- Washing your hands immediately once you return home
- Not meeting with groups, acquaintances, friends and family, due to the risk of one of you being a carrier
Part of this saw a range of shops forced to close following a public announcement from the Prime Minister. While this contained concessions for corner shops, chain stores, and more – the decision shuttered a number of vaping businesses forced to close, preventing users from accessing refills or other essentials for their devices.
Given the key role that vaping plays in smoking cessation industry bodies and professionals have waded in to provide their opinions on the risks involved with smoking during the COVID-19 outbreak. Leading the charge is the NHS, which has observed that vapes “[are] not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.” With headlines claiming that smoking potentially puts you at increased risk during the pandemic, it is important to fully understand the situation and make decisions that minimise harm to yourself and others.
Why is the Coronavirus so Dangerous?
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection and, as we currently understand it, is of particular risk to those who are immunocompromised, elderly, or struggling with an underlying health condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, or a range of otherwise manageable conditions.
Once contracted, the disease directly attacks the lungs after a five-day incubation period. While many individuals only experience mild symptoms or a ‘seasonal flu’, the disease can be spread while asymptomatic and it is highly contagious. Once fully gestated, symptoms last around a week and commonly involve aches, chills, fever, the production of excessive phlegm, and other characteristics of a severe flu.
However, some patients are more badly affected than others and go on to develop complications. The body’s attempt to fight off the virus creates an imbalance in their immune system, resulting in inflammation of the lungs which can lead to the contraction of pneumonia. This sees your lungs fill with water, preventing gas exchange and resulting in a shortness of breath, lack of oxygen, and excessive build-up of carbon dioxide. This creates a domino effect where your body takes longer to recover from disease, making it harder for you to handle your underlying health conditions or heal – with critical patients requiring intubation from a ventilator to allow them to breathe.
What Have Professionals Said About COVID-19 and Vaping?
As evidence and validated knowledge has steadily piled up around the virus, more professionals are speaking out about the risks COVID-19 represents, and how best to practically stop or delay the virus and reduce the strain on the health service:
The British Medical Journal (BMJ): The BMJ released a detailed statement highlighting the risk that smoking plays in passing the infection on to others. As the virus harbours itself in your respiratory tract, the exhalation of smoke can lead to it being passed on to others, as “research on a similar respiratory virus, respiratory syncytial virus, has shown that inhaled tobacco smoke increases the rate of transmission and severity of viral respiratory tract infections” placing smokers in the crosshairs of the pandemic.
The BMJ statement goes on to strongly recommend that “public health messages focused on how to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 also include country specific, evidence-based smoking cessation advice.” The body has called for a ‘multipronged’ approach combining the use of cessation services, physical restrictions, and information campaigns to help educate their audience. The BMJ has also noted how COVID-19 disproportionately affects the disadvantaged and vulnerable making it critically important to address in the long and short term.
Action in Smoking and Health (ASH): It should come as no surprise that the anti-smoking group comes out against the use of tobacco products during the crisis. Their recent release uses the words of the current British Secretary for Health that “it is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.”
Their work goes on to provide a stark ultimatum that now is the right time to quit or cut back, using the hashtag #QuitForCovid. The release goes on to cite GP Dr. Charlie Kenward saying “Stopping smoking remains the single most effective thing people can do to improve their and their family’s health both now and in the future.” ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott added that: “For smokers, quitting or temporarily stopping during this outbreak is one of the best things they could do right now.”
Health Safety and Environment Ireland (HSE): Ireland’s health authority has echoed these sentiments, declaring that “smoking affects the immune system in the airways, lung tissue and throughout the body. This reduces your natural protection against infections, like coronavirus.” The HSE highlighted that smokers may have an ‘increased risk’ of acute respiratory infection.
This can add extended stress to the patient and puts a strain on the health service, with smokers enduring a longer infection period and potentially taking longer to recover. The HSE also highlighted the need for the elderly and vulnerable to self-isolate, or “cocoon”, and the rest of the public to play their role in supporting them by restricting their movements and acting responsibly when it comes to leaving their homes.
Industry Professionals: A number of practitioners have also spoken out on an individual basis on the subject – responding to the threat posed by COVID-19’s ‘interlocking’ series of symptoms due to the effect on blood oxygenation. A number of these declarations were quickly collated online, with practitioners like Dr. James Gill highlighting that “possibly one of the biggest reasons smokers are at increased risk of respiratory infections is the impairment and death of the cilia in the airways and lungs” adding that “vaping is also preferable to smoking due to the lack of tar and other toxic chemicals” – making cessation and management a key priority.
Although vaping is touted as a potential alternative, quitting tobacco products altogether is continuously put forward as an ideal way to provide a pathway to recovery and life-long health. With medical research showing that smoking is most likely associated with the negative progression and adverse outcomes of COVID-19, there is no better, or more pressing, time to start than now.
How Can I Safeguard Myself Against COVID-19 Whilst Vaping?
Looking at the above, some patterns emerge that may be helpful to follow if you are concerned about the current situation with COVID-19:
Not Returning to Tobacco: One of the key findings from statements, report is the importance of cutting back or eliminating tobacco from your routine. While stress can be a trigger, it is important to not pick up your pack and instead seek out alternatives and other options. And while these may be difficult times, eliminating tobacco can reduce the risk to yourself and to those you are isolating with.
Cutting Back: If you are genuinely concerned about the risk of COVID-19, you can cut back on your daily use of vaping or change up your habit. This can pave the way toward complete cessation, give your lungs a chance to recover their functionality, over the period, or move to a different concentration of e liquid or nicotine free products.
Switching to Online Shopping: With vaping shops temporarily closed, it can be difficult to get the right e-liquids, salts, or pods for your devices. While ‘cutting back’ may help, picking up enough e-liquid to last you for a short period can help with social distancing and reduce the risk of in-person infection. While there is no need to bulk buy, their non-perishable nature means they can keep for as long as they are needed.
Ultimately, it is up to yourself to make the right decision for your case. Times are difficult, but we are going to get through them together by staying informed, helping others, and being responsible with our behaviour to ensure that we don’t place our neighbours or the vulnerable at risk.
If you are concerned about quarantining or getting access to e-liquids, you can check out our online store. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact our team directly. Let us know exactly what you need to find the right product for your unique situation.