Texas Tech University

Vaping, COVID-19, & You

By: Esmeralda Aguilera and Sofia Miller, Peer Educators

February 4th, 2021

photo of someone vaping

Photo Credit

Vaping. We all know what vaping is. We all know someone that vapes. But why were vapes created in the first place?

Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco have been around since the 1880s. However, it was not until 1966 that doctors began to see the adverse effects of smoking, and the first cautionary label was placed on cigarette packages. When this happened and people began to want to stop smoking, some struggled to stop the use of cigarettes as the nicotine found in cigarettes can be highly addictive.

To combat the harsh effects of cigarettes, the E-cigarette was invented as an alternative. Since the invention of the E-Cigarette, conventional cigarette smoking has decreased drastically, but the use of E-Cigarettes (AKA vapes) among younger adults has increased. Today we're doing a deep dive into vapes, how to quit vaping, and vaping's ties to COVID-19. Let's get started!

So, what exactly is in an E-cigarette?

Surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration has not begun their reviews of vape products nor has set any standards for what can be in an e-cigarette. Without standards in place to keep people safe, products like JUUls can (and do) include very toxic chemicals. Even though some companies claim that their products do not include tobacco, "studies have found that [they] contain trace amounts of nicotine."

According to Lung.org's page "What's in an E-cigarette?" the following chemicals and metals can be found in E-cigarettes:

  • Nicotine – a highly addictive substance that negatively affects adolescent brain development
  • Propylene glycol – a common additive in food; also used to make things like antifreeze, paint solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines
  • Carcinogens- chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
  • Acrolein – a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds, can cause irreversible lung damage
  • Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, aka "popcorn lung."
  • Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze that is linked to lung disease
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
  • Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease
  • Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

Does this mean that I need to quit vaping?

Remember, RISE is not ever here to tell you what to do – your body your choice!

However, we are here to keep you informed so you can make the best possible decisions you can to live your best and healthiest life. One reason to motivate you to stop vaping, juuling, etc., is because the ingredients in these products are unhealthy. Since these vapes are still relatively new, we also do not know the full scope of the effects and diseases (like EVALI) that may be associated with long-term use.

E-Cigarette or Vaping Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI)

EVALI is a hazardous lung injury and is the most severe vaping-related side effect that we know of. In 2019, a number of hospitals in the United States saw a rise in extreme and even fatal lung infections. Doctors and researchers could only find one thing in common among all of these patients... all of patients who contracted EVALI reported using vaping products.

EVALI presents with flu-like symptoms, which makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose. According to Yale Medicine's article EVALI, symptoms include: shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and tachypnea. In severe cases, the patient will need to be placed on a ventilator because they cannot breathe on their own.

Sound familiar? This disease has similar effects on the body as COVID-19.

regular lungs versus vaping lungs

The image on the left displays a healthy set of lungs while the image on the right shows a pair of lungs that suffered from EVALI. (Photo Credit)

Vaping and COVID-19

It's 2021, and COVID-19 is still dominating our lives. It affects everything and anything we do, and now more than ever, we need to take care of our health in ways we might have never done before.

A study was conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine that discovered a link between vaping and COVID-19 among teenagers. As young adults or college students, we are typically at a lower risk of experiencing the more severe symptoms that COVID-19 may cause; this risk becomes significantly higher if you are a vape user.

The study's lead author mentions, "This study tells us pretty clearly that youth who are using vapes...are at elevated risk, and it's not just a small increase in risk; it's a big one." The senior author of the study (Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Ph.D.) also mentioned, "Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days (about 4 and a half weeks) were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped."

Truly, if there was ever a time to quit, it might be now to keep you as protected from COVID-19 as possible. We know it won't be easy, but we're here to help support you through this process if you decide to take the next step.

How can I quit vaping?

According to the Truth Initiative's article titled "How to Quit JUUl," here are some helpful tips to start your quitting journey:

  1. Know the facts
  2. Seek support
  3. Keep going, even when you slip up

Stopping the use of E-Cigarettes can be difficult, and you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety, sadness
  • Feeling tired or groggy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Intense cravings

Even though you may experience these symptoms at the start, the more time that passes, the fewer withdrawal symptoms you'll experience.

To work through these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Build a plan to keep you on track
  • Set a realistic quit day, give yourself time to prepare but do not put it off longer than two weeks away
  • Find out what triggers you to vape
  • Stay hydrated to help avoid headaches, sweating, hunger, and fatigue
  • Practice good sleep habits
  • Picture the future you, ask yourself how vaping may be getting in the way of you being your best self

Quitting any sort of drug can be daunting, but should you choose to do so, remember you are fully loved and supported and your RISE family is here for you.

Stay safe out there, Red Raiders!

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Here are some additional resources that can help you on your journey to quit vaping:

Raider Restart

Raider Restart is a program designed to provide an individualized education for students about substance use and the impacts of alcohol and other drugs on one's health, wellness, and academic success. This program aims at helping students make safer, healthier choices and avoid the negative consequences substance use can bring.

You can learn more about this program by clicking here.

Truth Initiative

Text "DITCHJUUL" to 88709 or enroll in the free, digital quit programs This is Quitting or BecomeAnEX, which integrate the text program. Click here to get more information on this program.

Links & More Info on Vaping

1. https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping/vaping-addiction-nicotine-withdrawal
2. "How to quit Vaping" Smokefree https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping/how-to-quit-vaping
3. Turner, Terry. "JUUL and E-Cigarette Side Effects" Drugwatch. 23, Nov. 2020, https://www.drugwatch.com/e-cigarettes/side-effects/ (Paragraph 6)
4. Mase, Vincent. "E-Cigarette of Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury." Yale Medicine. Web. 26 Jan. 2021. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/evali (Paragraph 4)
5. "Vaping Linked to COVID-19 risk in teens and young adults."Stanford Medicine, 27, Jan.2021, https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/08/vaping-linked-to-covid-19-risk-in-teens-and-young-adults.html (Paragraph 5)
6. "How to Quit JUULing." Truth Initiative, 7 Feb. 2019, truthinitiative.org/research-resources/quitting-smoking-vaping/how-quit-juul.
7. "Quitting e-Cigarettes." Truth Initiative, 19 Jan. 2019, truthinitiative.org/research-resources/quitting-smoking-vaping/quitting-e-cigarettes.
8. "What's in an E-Cigarette?" American Lung Association, 13 July 2020, www.lung.org/quit-smoking/e-cigarettes-vaping/whats-in-an-e-cigarette.
9. UW Health Doctors Urge Teens and Young Adults to Quit Vaping. UW Health School of Medicine and Public Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/news/uw-health-doctors-urge-teens-young-adults-quit-vaping/52911 (Photo Credit)