Coronavirus strikes the lungs and this is what smokers and vapers are worried about

Whether you smoke or drink, you may wonder how this can lead to a potential global lung infection pandemic.

man using vape or electronic cigarette against the background of the city. Background
IMAGE SOURCE – FEDOROVACZ / ADOBE STOCK

This article was first published in VICE US.

As the latest coronavirus, known as COVID-19, still emerges and leads to further deaths in more US nations, the entire situation easily gets overwhelmed. No, you shouldn’t panic— not be able to avoid public transport, nor should you even buy a mask— it’s fair to want to know what’s happening unless you’re a healthcare provider on the front line.

You may wonder if that is what it looks like an ongoing global pandemic of lungs infections if you’re someone who smokes or vapes, which would affect your lung health. Reports show that Chinese men make well over half of the cases diagnosed. It is estimated that smoking can be a factor in illness and death rates in China, with more than 50% of men fuming compared to less than 2% of women.

As Russel Buhr, UCLA Health pulmonologist, pointed out, China’s largest study with records of 72,314 patients found that more males had been infected than females, but who smoked and who did not broke down. Men may be more vulnerable to this virus for completely different reasons than their higher rates of smoking–but we do not yet know this.

This is what smokers and vapers will know.

Boil it down for me. Boil it down for me. I’m a smoker. I’m just a smoker. Is the coronavirus more likely to me to get sick?

Maybe–we don’t know. Probably. “We know that nicotine and tobacco use damages our body’s ability to fight infection,” said Buhr. This is science created. By general, smokers ‘ lungs have a more difficult time successfully responding to an infection. (And a reason to quit smoking, if you need it). Long-term smoking can lead to COPD, a condition which also makes people more susceptible to infection.

What of COVID-19, then? “We generally know a lot about coronaviruses and they are in the same cold class,” said Buhr. However, this is a modern coronavirus; scientists continue to learn how this works and who is more susceptible. However, over time the general features of this group seem to be consistent: children are almost uninfected, whereas older people are more at risk. Infection is exacerbated by chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. This is all very well known for this virus, according to Buhr.

That said, we don’t know to date if smokers are especially more prone to COVID-19 than we know how the ability to prevent infections generally can be affected by smoking. Yasmin Thanavala, a professor of Immunology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Buffalo, NewYork, said: “It makes it easier for the lung to become infected and for a person to heal faster.

Of example, a condition like COPD increases the chance of infection in general— but Thanavala states that we are still discovering just what happens in patients with coronavirus. The patients have so far identified causes, co-morbidities and disorders, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, asthma, and cancer that are linked to higher death rates of infected people. She added: “We don’t know if anybody had the COPD and the coronovirus at once.” Nevertheless, we do not know if smokers are hit harder.

What about vaping? Does that improve coronavirus susceptibility?

Thanavala is researching the effects of vapor; in recent research, she and her colleagues have proposed that vitamin E acetate induced lung damage in vapors. She points out that inflammations and immune response are induced in rats, tobacco and second-hand smoke. And while the evidence is emerging, she said that “normal vaporization affects the animal’s ability to respond to infection” in preclinical studies of mice. Again, we are talking about general lungs becoming affected, apart from other unique vulnerabilities to COVID-19. “It is not long to conclude that vaporization in general and vaporization with THC could jeopardize the lung’s ability to deal with infection,” she said.

Is there any specific thing I can do to prevent infection as a smoker or vaper?

Quick reply: no difference from everybody else. Prevention is your best defence in the absence of a vaccine or a controlled treatment. It ensures that you must wash your hands, not touch your nose, and coughing into your elbow. And the experts have faith. “To take that seriously, we want people,” said Buhr. “And people really should hear their doctors.”

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