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‘Quit now, because then you’ll pay later’: Health experts warn smoking, vaping makes it harder to fight virus

woman vaping
Lakana file
A woman is seen exhaling while vaping.

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- A new Centers for Disease Control report Wednesday found e-cigarette sales jumped nearly 300% between November 2016 and August 2019. As more students return to school campuses nationwide, there is increased concern about peer pressure surrounding the habits.

During the pandemic, some health experts are saying smoking can make fighting Covid-19 harder.

"If you want to get a best condition possible status from smoking, quit now because then you'll pay later unfortunately," said Dr. Armando Meza, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Dr. Meza said smoking can affect the way bodies are supplied with oxygen, and if the virus makes that damage worse, it can impact chances of recovery.

"The more older population that has been a smoker for longer time periods, we have seen that this is affecting their ability to recuperate from the infection," Dr. Meza said. "So yes, the higher older population group, more damage and more complications than the younger ones, which is not to say that the younger patients are in any way safe from the risk."

It's not just cigarettes that can cause the problem, according to Dr. Meza. He said e-cigarettes and vaping can be just as dangerous.

"If anything we have learned with Covid-19 is that when something is new, it's hard to predict what the outcome is going to be," Dr. Meza said. "I think vaping is on the same category. So if you combine two conditions where the risks are really not defined yet, and you take those risks, you're really putting your life and your health in severe trouble. I don't think that it's justified that because you are healthy and you feel well it's worth taking that risk."

A new report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University found more young adults and students have used e-cigarettes in recent years. Researchers also found more users were using the products daily, suggesting more dependence.

"What we really need to do at this point is make it not cool to vape," said Dr. Sarah Martin, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso. "That's really the only way that we're going to get teenagers to stand up to the peer pressure."

Dr. Martin recommends parents speak with children early on about smoking and vaping, before habits are built. If a child has already started smoking, she says parents should not wait to take action. She also recommends approaching the conversation with a certain amount of mutual respect.

"You do have to do it in a way that they're still talking to you, that they can still hear what you're saying," she said. "When you go in there with a real aggressive stance, they're not going to hear everything."

There are several free and anonymous services that can help individuals addicted to nicotine and vaping. Dr. Martin advises inquiring with organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (which also supports drug users) and Narcotics Anonymous.

Individuals can also utilize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Madeline Ottilie

Madeline Ottilie is a reporter on Good Morning El Paso and co-anchors ABC-7 at noon.


1 Comment

  1. I wholeheartedly believe people that want to smoke have every right to do so. But I also believe that smoking is bad for the health of the individual. It makes sense that people who smoke are not only more susceptible to the virus but a variety of diseases that can kill them. Intelligent decisions have to be made in whether to smoke or not. After all, its their life we are talking about.

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