More people than ever are sitting up and taking a long hard look at their health during the coronavirus pandemic. For many smokers, this means looking into quitting - in fact, the vast majority of smokers trying to quit cite health factors as their reason for doing so, even before the coronavirus outbreak. Advice from all the major public health experts, both in the UK and internationally, is clear - if you’re a smoker, you should look to quit as soon as possible in order to keep yourself and your family as safe and healthy as possible.
However, here is where the clear advice ends, unfortunately! There are all kinds of misinformation and unconfirmed theories floating around about the safety of smoking, the use of nicotine replacement therapies, and, in particular, the safety of vaping. In this article, we’ll answer a few big questions about the safety of vaping regarding COVID-19, and offer some advice on how to vape as safely as possible.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus which, according to current evidence, is spread through close person-to-person contact via “respiratory droplets”. You can also pick up coronavirus through so-called “contact routes” - where an infected person has touched an object or surface, leaving the virus behind and then another person touches the same object or area, resulting in the virus staying on their skin where it is likely to spread to the mouth, nose and eyes.
Those who are at higher risk of contracting coronavirus include those with existing medical conditions, those with a lowered immune response (such as the elderly and those with ongoing health conditions) and those who are more susceptible to respiratory disease (such as asthmatics, those who have had bacterial infections or viral infection in the past, and smokers).
Can Vaping Spread Coronavirus?
There have been concerns that vaping, in particular, the clouds of vapour created when you exhale, could carry germs and even the coronavirus, which may then be passed on to those around. As COVID-19 can be transmitted when it comes into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth, this makes sense on the surface and some experts believe that saliva, mucus and bacteria can be carried in the vapour you exhale.
However, there is little evidence to support this, and other health experts have stated the exact opposite! Some sources tell us that because the aerosol that is exhaled when you vape evaporates far more quickly than the particles that are produced when you cough, sneeze or smoke, there is little risk of COVID-19 transmission. Dr Neal Benowitz of the University of California San Fransisco stated:
“The vaping aerosol [from e-cigarettes] evaporates very quickly, while particles that are emitted when coughing or sneezing are large particles that persist in the air for a relatively long period of time.
“Thus, I would not think that vapers present any risk of spreading COVID-19, unless they are coughing when they exhale the vapour.”
Of course, the most sensible thing for vapers to do is simply be conscious of where they are exhaling, which is simply good manners anyway! If you can, try and vape at home, rather than in public, as much as possible. When vaping, make sure you’re exhaling away from others as much as possible, ideally outdoors and not in the same room as friends or family members. In fact, even those who believe that COVID-19 can be carried in e-cigarette vapour are not calling for vapes to be banned, instead, asking vapers to be as conscious as possible about where they vape and how they vape around others.
Are Vapers More At-Risk of Coronavirus?
When compared to a non-smoker, the evidence is still incomplete, but most experts would say based on the available evidence and plain old common sense, yes. Compared to someone who doesn’t smoke or vape, and particularly compared to those who have never smoked or vaped, you are more likely to be at risk of respiratory diseases like coronavirus. However, it is very important to note that the majority of vapers, particularly in the UK, are ex-smokers. In this case, it is far safer for you to vape than it is to smoke. The NHS advises smokers and vapers that: “There is very little evidence on vaping and coronavirus and it is unknown whether vaping makes you more susceptible to severe disease if you become infected. If it does, the risk is likely to be much less than if you smoke.”
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for a person getting COVID-19 and being affected more seriously by it. As smoking raises your risk of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19, the best thing you can do to protect your health and the health of your family is to quit smoking, and in this instance, vaping can be incredibly beneficial. Vaping, while not entirely risk-free, is estimated to be 95% safer than smoking, which is a significant improvement.
Vaping is a popular aid to quit smoking, particularly in the UK where it is promoted as an effective way to help traditional tobacco cigarette smokers quit for good. Traditional nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine gum, patches, lozenges and sprays can also be used to help you quit smoking, though some studies indicate that those who use vaping as their quitting aid are generally more likely to successfully quit than those who try to quit with the help of these more traditional and established methods. Some reports even estimate that e-cigarettes are twice as effective as nicotine patches, gums or sprays in helping smokers quit.
If vaping is the most effective way to quit smoking and make sure you stay smokefree, then you shouldn’t stop vaping, even during the coronavirus pandemic. Ensuring that you don’t go back to smoking tobacco cigarettes is the best thing you can do to protect your health.