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Can Vaping Make COVID-19 Risks Worse?


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Man vaping on a gray background

Vaping may create underlying health issues for Juul and other e-cigarette users that make them more likely to suffer severe complications of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In an email to Bloomberg news, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum likened smoking and vaping to other underlying conditions that increase risks from the novel coronavirus, including lung and heart conditions.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and other public health experts have speculated that vaping may be part of the reason the United States has seen higher percentages of young people diagnosed with COVID-19 than other countries.

People between the ages of 18 and 44 accounted for more than 40 percent of New York City’s confirmed coronavirus cases as of April 1, 2020.

Because the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has only been around for a few months, there is little research into how vaping and the virus may interact. But health professionals warn it makes sense that vaping can make the lungs ripe for infection.

What We Know About Vaping and COVID-19

Vaping can cause inflammation and weakness to tissue that makes the lungs open to infection. And COVID-19 is an infection that attacks the lungs, killing lung cells and tissue in its wake, according to the American Lung Association.

Research also suggests that the vapor from Juul and other e-cigarettes harms lung cells and decreases their ability to ward off infection, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the institute’s director, wrote in a blog post on the agency’s website.

Lung injuries and respiratory problems are among the most serious e-cigarette side effects. Both are among the underlying conditions that may worsen COVID-19 infections. Juul and other e-cigarettes also contain high levels of nicotine, which has been linked to weakened immune systems. And medical professionals say there is evidence that chronic vaping can weaken a person’s ability to fight off a viral infection in the lungs.

COVID-19 and the Vaping-Related EVALI Outbreak

Dr. Alok Patel, a Columbia University pediatrician, told ABC News that people who vape are in the “high-risk bracket” of underlying conditions for COVID-19, citing the most serious vaping-related side effect — EVALI

He pointed out that EVALI is solid evidence of vaping’s ability to cause direct damage to the lungs that can make e-cig users more vulnerable to COVID-19.

EVALI stands for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury. An outbreak in 2019 sent more than 2,800 to the hospital and killed 68 others across the United States. The disease caused permanent lung damage and resulted in at least one patient needing a double lung transplant.

COVID-19 attacks the same parts of the lungs as EVALI does. This could place EVALI survivors, or those experiencing both conditions at the same time, at much greater risk.

Side Effect Information

Vaping may cause severe lung injuries and respiratory problems. Learn more about the side effects associated with Juul and other e-cigarettes.

View Side Effects

Taking Advantage of Social Distancing to Quit Vaping

Some health care and addiction experts say this time of social distancing may be an opportunity for people trying to figure out how to quit vaping. This can be especially true for teens who vape.

Parents can use current events to discuss lung health and draw connections between the coronavirus and the potential for lung damage from vaping. 

Families with multiple smokers or e-cig users can use stay-at-home time to work as a family to all quit vapes, cigarettes and other tobacco products.

And social distancing from friends who vape, or places where e-cig users like to vape, can also be part of the toolkit for quitting.

Terry Turner
Written By Terry Turner Writer

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 25 years. He covers FDA policy, proton pump inhibitors, and medical devices such as hernia mesh, IVC filters, and hip and knee implants. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on health and medical policy issues before Congress, the FDA and other federal agencies. Some of his qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in Washington Examiner, MedPage Today and The New York Times
  • Appeared as an expert panelist on hernia mesh lawsuits on the BBC
Edited By

8 Cited Research Articles writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts. Review our editorial policy to learn more about our process for producing accurate, current and balanced content.

  1. American Lung Association. (2020, March 27). What You Need to Know About Smoking, Vaping and COVID-19. Retrieved from
  2. Breen, K. (2020, March 24). Why Social Distancing Provides a ‘Golden Opportunity’ for Teens to Quit Vaping. NBC News/Today. Retrieved from
  3. Caiola, S. (2020, March 28). Stop Vaping and Smoking – Health Officials Urge Californians to Quit to Protect Against COVID-19. CapRadio. Retrieved from
  4. Edney, A. and LaVito, A. (2020, March 27). Vaping Could Compound Health Risks Tied to Virus, FDA Says. Bloomberg. Retrieved from
  5. Glantz, S. (2020, March 6). Reduce Your Risk of Serious Lung Disease Caused By Coronavirus By Quitting Smoking and Vaping. UCSF Center for Tobacco Control and Research. Retrieved from
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, March 24). COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals With Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from
  7. Nunneley, C.E. (2020, March 26). Vaping and E-Cigarettes: Adding Fuel to the Coronavirus Fire? ABC News. Retrieved from
  8. O’Kand, C. (2020, April 1). Many of New York City’s Coronavirus Patients Are Young People. CBS News. Retrieved from
View All Sources
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