ATHRA: No Evidence Of Risk

Posted 31st March 2020 by Dave Cross
Colin Mendelsohn has stated that vaping does not increase the risk of contracting COVID-19. In a statement posted on the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) website, he said that vaping poses no more risk to vapers or bystanders than normal breathing.

“There is no evidence that vaping increases the risk or the severity of COVID-19 in vapers or bystanders, in spite of claims by anti-vaping activists,” says Professor Mendelsohn, as he announces the release of a factsheet on COVID-19 and vaping by ATHRA.

Mendelsohn cites University of California San Francisco’s Dr Neil Benowitz, who says: “the level of mucus and saliva in vapour is so minimal that it is unlikely to cause infection”. Benowitz told journalists “there is 'no data' to support the theory COVID-19 could spread through e-cigarette vapour.”

“It is my understanding that exhaled e-cigarette vapor consists of very small particles of water, propylene glycol and glycerin and flavour chemicals, not droplets of saliva,” Benowitz said. “The vaping aerosol evaporates very quickly, while particles that are emitted when coughing or sneezing are large particles that persist in the air for a relatively long period of time. Thus, I would not think that vapers present any risk of spreading COVID-19, unless they are coughing when they exhale the vapor.”

“COVID-19 is transmitted by coughing or sneezing. Large droplets of saliva containing the virus are expelled at high speed into the air and persist for longer periods,” wrote Professor Mendelsohn. “However vaping aerosol releases very small liquid particles of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and very low doses of chemicals at low speeds which disperse quickly. Vapour is expelled even more slowly from low-powered devices.”

“There is also some evidence that propylene glycol has anti-viral properties in aerosol form.

The risk for vapers. The main risk from COVID-19 is serious lung infection, particularly pneumonia. Most vapers are former smokers and may have some underlying lung damage from years of smoking. As a result, they may be more likely to get lung infections.”

“There is no evidence that vaping itself increases the risk of catching the coronavirus or of getting more severe disease” – Professor Colin Mendelsohn

Professor Mendelsohn goes on to say: “Any harm to the lungs from vaping is certain to be considerably less than smoking. Most studies show improvements in lung health after switching, for example better lung function, improved asthma and COPD ('emphysema') and reduced risk of pneumonia.

“Vaping would be expected to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 and is likely to reduce the severity of infection as well. However, there is no evidence to confirm this so far.”

ATHRA gives the following advice:

  • Try to quit smoking. If you can't quit, switch to vaping nicotine. This will improve your health and you will save lots of money at a time of great financial stress for many people
  • Smokers and vapers should observe the usual rules for reducing the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing, regular handwashing, coughing into your elbow or a tissue, avoiding face touching and isolation if infected.
  • Vapers should be discreet and avoid large clouds in public as this makes bystanders anxious. Low powered devices are preferred in this setting
  • Smokers should try to quit. Switching to vaping is a legitimate option if other methods fail
  • Avoid sharing vaping devices, cigarettes or cannabis

Related:

  • ATHRA factsheet on COVID-19 & vaping – [link]

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker