Parents and schools have been concerned about the rapid rise in the number of teens in south Orange County who have begun vaping in the past few years. And now, with the compounded risk of respiratory illness with COVID-19, it is more important than ever to protect our youth. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recently identified smokers as being at a higher risk for becoming severely ill with COVID-19, and vaping is another form of smoking.
COVID-19 is a virus that aggressively attacks the lungs. According to Dr. Albert Rizzo, M.D., American Lung Association’s Chief Medical Officer,“COVID-19 is a lung infection that aggressively attacks the lungs and kills lung cells and tissue.” In a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, people who smoked were 2.4 times more likely to have severe symptoms from COVID-19 than those who did not smoke.
Ingredients in vapes cause lung inflammation. Popular among teens today are a brand of colorful, inexpensive, disposable vapes called Puff Bars, as well as many brands of refillable pod-based vapes such as Juuls or Phix. These devices contain a highly addictive form of nicotine, along with a wide variety of tempting flavorings designed to make them taste sweet. Refillable, or pod based vapes can be used to consume marijuana more discretely, as they are relatively odor free and are less detectable. Nicotine, marijuana and the many chemicals used for flavoring have been found to irritate the lining of the lungs and cause inflammation. This inflammation makes it harder for lungs to ward off an invading virus such as COVID-19 and may make the symptoms more severe.
Healthy functioning lungs are important in battling this virus. Our airways are designed to help filter bacteria and viruses out of our body. Even more importantly, our lungs are lined with immune cells that help us ward off bacteria and viruses, so we don’t become sick in the first place. “While it’s important to prevent getting COVID-19 in the first place, it’s also essential that we do all we can to keep our lungs healthy to avoid the worst effects of the disease,” said Dr. Rizzo.
This is a great time to go vape free and avoid second-hand vape emissions. If you or a loved one vape or smoke, the good news is that by quitting now your lungs will get healthier. Whether it’s quitting traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, it’s a difficult road particularly for teens. The teen brain is still undergoing important developmental changes and can easily become dependent on nicotine or marijuana. While teens are home more now, and surrounded by their loved ones, this might be the perfect time for them to get your support to quit. There are apps and online programs that offer support via texts, chat, video and phone with trained professionals. Check out BecomeAnEx.org and NoButts.org.
If your teen is experimenting with e-cigarettes, don’t assume it is a harmless rite of passage. Download our Fact Sheet to learn more about vapes and for suggestions on how to engage your teen in a meaningful conversation about vaping, download our Parent Tip Sheet.