PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A new study raises a strong correlation between testing positive for COVID-19 and young people who either vape or smoke, or use both.
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The research, led by Stanford, involved a nationwide survey of more than 4,300 teenagers and young adults, ages 13 to 24. It included those who vape, smoke cigarettes or use both, along with non-users.
The results are dramatic.
Those who ever used e-cigarettes were five times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and seven times greater if they ever used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes.
Researchers also noted that the rate of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis was 6.8 times greater if a young person used both in the past 30 days.
Principal investigator Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor in the Dept. of Pediatrics at Stanford, explained what the cause could be.
"You've got adolescents who typically are sharing their vaping products," she said. "You've also got the hand-to-mouth action that's going on that we worry about. And there's some question of whether maybe, there is coronavirus, that the virus itself is being carried in that big plume of aerosol that you see."
She also cited the impact on lung function by nicotine and possibly by chemicals in e-cigarettes.
The study also found that Blacks, Hispanics and multi-racial survey participants were almost twice as likely to have COVID-19 symptoms.
23-year-old Jessica Finn hopes this is a wake-up call for her generation. She tested positive for COVID-19 after clubbing in Spain last March.
"I was so lucky that I had such a mild case," the aspiring actress said. "If I had been vaping, it might have been a completely different story. I think so many people, especially my age, just feel so invincible."
An advocacy group for vaping products disputes the findings. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, pointed out "this study found no association between having vaped exclusively during the prior 30 days and reporting a positive COVID test."
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said it cannot comment on the specifics of the study, but the agency will review it.
A spokesperson told ABC7 News that "cigarette smoking suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of respiratory infections, and causes heart and lung diseases."
It believes cigarette smokers may be at increased risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus. The agency further said that e-cigarettes can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals. "E-cigarettes should never be used by youth, young adults, and pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products."
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