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Lead author hits back after media misrepresents COVID-19/vape link

February 15, 2021

Credit: BAT

The lead author of a study into the role vapour can play in spreading COVID-19 has criticised the Telegraph and Daily Mail for ‘sloppy journalism’ and ‘misquoting’ his report, respectively. 

Dr Roberto Sussmann, associate professor at the University of Mexico City, led a study exploring the “aerial transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through environmental e-cigarette aerosol”.

The study found that: “low intensity vaping only produces a minuscule (∼1 percent) extra contagion risk with respect to the control case scenario of continuous breathing.”

Low intensity vaping devices represent around 90 percent of the market, yet the media focused on the five to 17 percent increased risk of transmission that could be associated with high intensity vaping to create more dramatic headlines.  The study looked at vaping within a confined space (at home and in a restaurant setting).

The risk of spreading COVID-19 via vaping is substantially less than that associated with talking in an indoor setting.

The report recommends: “As a consequence, protection from possible COVID-19 contagion through vaping emissions does not require extra interventions besides the standard recommendations to the general population: keeping a social separation distance of 2 meters and wearing of face”.

Yet the Daily Mail story states the report recommends: “it might be sensible to ban it in public spaces such as restaurants and train stations.”


Responding to the media coverage, the vape industry body IVBTA stated: “There are still between 6 and 7 million smokers in the UK and smoking results in around 73,000 deaths and 480,000 hospital admissions every year. Those smokers deserve the opportunity to move to products that are as safe and effective as possible in replacing combustible tobacco. Both smokers and current vapers also deserve accurate information about vaping products and their associated risks, and especially at a time when more us think about our health in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic.

“What was presented in both The Telegraph and Daily Mail articles once more demonstrates deeply insidious flaws in media coverage about vaping. It shows a lack of professionalism by misleading when the science is very clear, which seems to be underpinned journalistic prejudice against vaping, creating a “bad news” story where there is none.”