Recovery advocates worry about increased dangers of COVID-19 for vapers

As kids come home from college, either for break or because classes have gone virtual, there's a reminder to parents to keep an eye out for signs of vaping.

A number of medical studies are now confirming that vaping seriously amplifies the risks of COVID-19 in young adults -- an age group that may otherwise think they're relatively safe.

"I didn’t realize how addicted I was going to become," said Micah Meline with Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Micah Meline picked up vaping thinking it was safer than smoking -- unaware, then, of all the harmful additives that go into the flavors.

"I don’t think kids realize it’s an aerosol and that aerosol contains chemicals," he explained.

In hindsight now, Meline realizes how hard it was to quit vaping because of how the higher nicotine made it much more addictive.

"For me, when I was smoking cigarettes, I’d go outside maybe have one cigarette," he explained. "But when I was vaping, it was everywhere I was going, in my house, in my room, in my car."

"I think the most important thing is for parents to look out for the signs and symptoms of vaping usage," said Elle Mark with the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Now, in the age of COVID-19, even more risk exists with vaping. A Stanford University study of vapers between the ages of 13-24 found vapers were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID. For those who vaped and smoked, it rose to seven times more likely.

"When you have these different chemicals that induce popcorn lung," said Mark. "When you have these chemicals that induce this EVALI and those different complications that we see with e-cigarette use, that is going to severely impact COVID-19 symptoms and make them that much more prevalent in this population."

But COVID-19 has also brought about positive changes. A study published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association found, in that same age group, 35 percent had reduced their vape use and 33 percent fully quit because it's been harder to go to vape shops during the pandemic.

Meline hopes people understand the risks that COVID-19 only makes worse.

"With vaping being so new, we still don’t know the long term effects, and with COVID-19, this pandemic we’re in, we don’t know the long term effects from that," said Meline. "So it’s two risks rolled into one, if you’re choosing to vape, and for me that’s a pretty scary thing."