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Health experts tie vaping to COVID-19, reports of vaping illnesses become’uncommon’

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MADISON (WKOW) -- There's new evidence people who use vaping products or electronic cigarettes are more likely to get coronavirus and symptoms could be severe, but tracking these cases is becoming more uncommon for state officials.

UW Health said a few research studies have made the connection between smoking cigarettes, vaping aerosol, and COVID-19 which are known to cause lung inflammation and lowered immune function, both associated with more severe cases of COVID-19. 

“What we know is patients who vape have more lung injury and are more [susceptible] to worsening lung injury for any illness,” said Dr. Vivek Balasubramaniam, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Health professionals said they now have a bigger concern for youth who vape, an age group that is not as likely to contract the virus compared to older adults.

“My concern is if children are vaping, any protection they have in age and problems from COVID-19 they may lose that and may just become as acceptable to adults who don't vape,” said Dr. Balasubramaniam.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services who tracks vaping related injuries said those reporting lung complications due to vaping has become "very uncommon."

A DHS spokesperson said local health departments are still investigating cases as they come, but "the cases of the illnesses associated with vaping have tapered off."

State health officials said they don't know the reasons for the decline but suggest it could be due to the changes in the formulation of THC vaping products and fewer people using them.

Last year a DHS investigation found 89 percent of the 27 cases that reported lung disease due to vaping were tied to vaping THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Vape shop sales overall have taken a hit by the COVID-19 crisis. General manager of Knuckleheads Vape and Smoke Shop downtown Madison said they’ve been financially impacted just like any other business but said demand for products has remained steady.

"Sales as a whole were down 50 percent,” said Landon Meske, Manager of Knuckleheads.

Meske doesn’t believe new health warnings on linking COVID-19 and vaping will impact his customer base but doctors are stressing now is the time to quit.

“Things we can control during this pandemic is what we are exposing ourselves too and one way to control this is reducing the use or quitting smoking and vaping,” said Dr. Balasubramaniam.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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