Could vaping epidemic among teens make COVID-19 worse?

VIDEO: There are new concerns about how vaping can impact young people who test positive with COVID-19.

If you think your teen or young adult doesn’t vape, or vaping is safer than cigarettes, you might want to think again.

Vaping has been linked to an increase in lung inflammation and blamed for as many as 60 deaths.

And now, there’s COVID, at a time when there’s been a surge in teen vaping especially among minorities. Health experts now call it an epidemic among young people.

But no one is immune to vaping’s potentially dangerous side effects.

Scientists surveyed over 2,000 11th and 12th graders’ e-cigarette use, then asked about wheezing or bronchitis symptoms. They found students who vaped were more susceptible to lung inflammation and respiratory symptoms. Experts say it’s logical that vaping could cause COVID to be more severe.

“If the virus enters a lung that’s damaged, that the structure has been broken, that is more permeable, the virus is going to be able to get access perhaps in larger numbers or a larger viral load,” said Dr. Fernando Holguin, a pulmonologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

But is that health message getting out? Internet searches for vaping and COVID peaked in March, but then dropped off, and in the Latino community, fewer people searched for information despite a surge in vaping among Latinos.

“So, there are very well-known studies done by the CDC and other groups that show that Latinos are one of the fastest-growing vaping groups in the U.S.,” Holguin said.

Holguin said parents need to arm their kids with information. Research shows the number of kids who started vaping at 14 or younger has tripled in the past five years.

Kids often think vaping is less harmful than cigarettes. But it can be addictive, and no one’s sure yet about long-term impacts on lungs.

“It’s convincing young people like listen, you don’t want to be having serious regrets 10, 15, 20 years from now when you’re going to be wanting to have a real full life at that time,” Holguin said.

There are resources available to parents who want to help their child stop vaping, including which has practical tips for parents who want to support their child.