Coronavirus: Health experts warn vaping, smoking may increase risk of severe COVID-19 infection

Shortly before COVID-19 and the outcry for hospital ventilators, many public health officials were focused on the young vapers who ended up needing critical care due to a mysterious new lung ailment.

"They were developing lung infections, serious lung infections that were killing them," Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. John K. de Beixedon said.

Early data of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States reveal a fairly high number have been among younger adults, the same population known for vaping.

De Beixedon said it's no coincidence that people who vape or smoke could be especially hit hard by the potentially deadly virus.

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"They are abrasive to the trachea and the bronchioles. The reason is those passageways in the lungs have little cilia," he said. "And the little cilia are designed to move the mucus away."

Doctors say when those tiny hair-like cilia die, the lungs become more vulnerable. Preliminary numbers suggest men are more likely to contract coronavirus than women. More men than women smoke, especially in countries like China, Iran and Italy.

"So the places where people were hardest hit were places where people were regular smokers," he said.

De Beixedon said he's also concerned more people are vaping and smoking marijuana to ease anxiety and boredom. Dispensaries remain open as they are an essential business for medical patients in pain.

"Marijuana smokers do get more bacterial lung infections and more viral lung infections, just like smokers," he said.

De Beixedon recommends pain patients switch to edibles. And while Americans have given up many things during this time of social isolation, smoking, vaping or using a hookah are all habits that should be avoided.

"If you don't want to end up in the morgue, why not do the easiest thing not to?" he said. "And that is to avoid inhaling cigarette smoke and avoid inhaled cannabis smoke."

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Patients with COVID-19 experience mild to severe respiratory illnesses.

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