Friday, September 18, 2020

Teen tobacco use linked to higher risk of COVID-19: Study

Bloomberg News

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Researchers around the world have sought to determine whether tobacco use influences a person’s risk of getting COVID-19 and how sick they will become. Observational studies found smokers accounted for only a fraction of hospitalizations, though it appears they are more likely to experience severe disease or death, according to the World Health Organization.

Not all of the Stanford study’s findings were consistent, said Ray Niaura, a professor at New York University specializing in tobacco dependence. For example, respondents who said they used tobacco products in the past month were less likely to test positive for the coronavirus than those who said they had tried smoking or vaping at least once in the past.

Young people who used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes were at the greatest risk of testing positive, followed by those who vaped exclusively.

Surveys aren’t ideal research tools because they rely on people responding accurately and there is no way to verify answers. Results may also be skewed if the sample isn’t completely random.

The Stanford study wasn’t designed to show how tobacco products increase the risk of getting infected, and there isn’t enough evidence to say the products themselves, rather than some other factor associated with smoking or vaping, are responsible.

Halpern-Felsher said tobacco users may have weaker immune systems, or that bringing an object up to one’s mouth and sharing it with friends could allow germs to spread more freely. Gathering with friends or being more willing to take health risks could play a role, she said.

“Do I think there are strong associated risks? Absolutely,” Halpern-Felsher said.

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