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UNC: E-cigarettes could impair body’s immune response to viral infections

Posted at 12:54 PM, Nov 18, 2020

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Vaping and COVID-19.

Could using e-cigarettes put you at greater risk for viral infections like coronavirus or the flu? It's a question researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) are looking into in the midst of the pandemic.

“E-cigarette use has been shown, from this study, not to be safe,” Dr. Meghan Rebuli, Assistant Professor with the UNC Department of Pediatrics said.

Rebuli and others at UNC are studying the impacts of viral infections on e-cigarette users.

“We want to know what factors will affect someone more, so will smoking make you more at risk for COVID-19, or will e-cigarette use make you more at risk for COVID-19?"

In their study, researchers found vaping e-cigarettes could impair your body's normal immune response to viral infections.

“E-cigarette users and smokers had a less powerful immune response against the virus,” Rebuli said.

“What we found is that these genes and proteins that are really critical to making sure that your immune process and your immune response to this virus is working at top capacity, are impaired,” Rebuli added. “This is really critical when it comes to respiratory viruses and could also potentially be applicable to something like the coronavirus.”

News 3 Medical Expert Dr. Ryan Light said this study is important to cut back or stop e-cigarette use to keep you safe.

“As we find more out about e-cigarettes, we find that they're more dangerous than we once thought,” Light said. “An ounce of prevention, at this point, is worth a pound of cure.”

Both Light and Rebuli believe it's also a reminder to keep up with health guidelines during the pandemic, especially if you vape.

“Maybe this should indicate that they need to take kind of hypervigilance or hyperawareness when they're using PPE; when they're maintaining six-foot distance; when they're washing their hands,” Rebuli said.

This story was first reported by Zak Dahlheimer at WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.