People who have a history of smoking or vaping prior to being hospitalized for COVID-19 are more likely to suffer severe side effects, including death, according to a new study.
Surveying 107 hospitals across the United States between January 2020 and March 2021, researchers with the American Heart Association (AHA) pulled data from patients 18 years of age or older who were admitted to the hospital due to an infection with COVID-19. Patients who reported smoking either traditional or e-cigarette products were found to be 39% more likely to be put on a ventilator and 45% more likely to die compared to nonsmoking, hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
“People who smoke or vape tend to have a higher prevalence of other health conditions and risk factors that could play a role in how they are impacted by COVID-19,” Aruni Bhatnagar, senior author of the study, said. “The robust and significant increase in the risk of severe COVID-19 [cases] seen in our study, independent of medical history and medication use and particularly among young individuals, underscores the urgent need for extensive public health interventions.”
Though the study evaluated risk across age groups and demographics, a subgroup analysis on younger patients revealed that smoking has had a greater impact on younger patients and hospitalizations with COVID-19. Because younger people tend to have fewer preexisting conditions that could heighten the side effects of an infection, smoking is a more significant risk factor, according to the study.
Daily e-cigarette use, a habit that tends to reflect nicotine dependence, has steadily increased among U.S. adults, according to another new research study. For smokers between the ages of 21 and 24, daily usage increased from 4.4% to 6.6% between 2017 and 2020. Earlier this summer, the FDA banned Juul vaping devices from the market, citing their “disproportionate role in the rise of youth vaping,” although the company has appealed the decision.
The AHA’s findings on the link between smoking and a higher risk of severe complications with COVID-19 are meant to aid healthcare professionals as they identify the best means of care and diagnosis in hospital settings. While the relationship between smoking and severe side effects remains clear, studies have yet to determine how a history of tobacco or e-cigarette use contributes to the risk of initial infection with COVID-19.