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PHE gives qualified backing to vape during COVID-19 outbreak

June 16, 2020

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“It is clear that vaping is far less harmful to the respiratory system than smoking”, Public Health England has said in guidance published on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance points to e-cigarettes as an effective tool to quit smoking, which it says puts people at particular risk of developing severe symptoms from the coronavirus.

It says: “COVID-19 is a respiratory viral infection that affects the lungs and airways. There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections.

“Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing your ability to fight infection. Smoking also involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which increase the risk of viruses entering the body.

This means that if you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, and you are more likely to have underlying smoking-related conditions, which could lead to more severe disease outcomes.”

The statement did not go so far as to say vaping during the pandemic would be risk-free, however. “There is very little evidence on vaping and COVID-19 and it is unknown whether vaping makes you more susceptible to severe disease if you become infected. If it does, the risk is likely to be much less than if you smoke.”

The statement underlined what has been its core message on vaping in recent years: “Vaping remains much less harmful than smoking for most people and it is very important that you avoid returning to smoking.”

To encourage safer vaping, the guidance says that users should pay particular attention to hygiene and cleaning devices: “Vaping involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which provide greater risk of a route of entry into the body for viruses.”