Coronavirus will not spread in vape clouds unless the user coughs when they exhale, a scientist claims after reports the killer virus lurked in e-ciagrette vapour.
A microbiologist sparked fears last week after warning that inhaling someone else’s vapour was the same as ‘being spat in the face’.
But there is not enough evidence to prove that vape clouds carried enough germs to infect others, Dr Neal Benowitz, an emeritus professor of medicine, told MailOnline.
Dr Benowitz, of the University of California San Francisco, claims the level of mucus and saliva in vapour is so minimal that it is unlikely to cause infection.
Studies have shown that coronavirus causes more serious health complications in men than women – in the UK 70 per cent of ICU patients are male.
Chinese scientists have questioned whether that may be because men tend to smoke more than females because almost two thirds of their male population smokes compared to less than 5 per cent of females.
But public health officials say there is not enough evidence to support this theory, as only 1.4 per cent of coronavirus deaths in China were smokers.
The global coronavirus pandemic has seen 359,00 people infected – almost 5,900 of which are in the UK and 40,850 are in the US.
Microbiologist Tom McLean, based in Scotland, said vapers may be spreading their germs with the aid of vape clouds. Someone on the street or in the home might inhale the secondhand smoke. Pictured, stock of young woman vaping
Dr Neal Benowitz told MailOnline there is ‘no data’ to support the theory COVID-19 could spread through e-cigarette vapour.
‘It is my understanding that exhaled e-cigarette vapor consists of very small particles of water, propylene glycol and glycerin and flavor chemicals, not droplets of saliva,’ he said.
‘The vaping aerosol evaporates very quickly, while particles that are emitted when coughing or sneezing are large particles that persist in the air for a relatively long period of time.
‘Thus, I would not think that vapers present any risk of spreading COVID-19, unless they are coughing when they exhale the vapor.’
Dr Benowitz’s comments follow reports that inhaling secondhand vapour is a way of catching COVID-19.
Scottish microbiologist Tom McLean said vapers may be spreading their germs with the aid of vape clouds.
Vaping, according to Mr McLean, can carry droplets and leave them floating in the air, ready to infect someone nearby.
Speaking to the Glasgow Times, he said: ‘We’re all used to walking down the street now and it’s one cloud followed by another cloud, followed by another cloud.
‘Blowing vapour out is as good as someone spitting in your face.
‘The vapour itself contains respiratory droplets including saliva, mucus and bacteria and when it’s blown out, it travels for a long distance and hangs in the air at head height.
‘If anyone has the coronavirus and are vaping, they’d be spreading it to a lot of people at the same time.’
Mr McLean said vapers should consider those around them during this time. He said if you are in a large group, you should move to the edge to vape – however a gathering of strangers is unlikely if people are following social distancing measures.
‘If you’re at home, be aware of who is around about you,’ Mr McLean said.
‘It’s not about an outright ban of vaping but it’s about being responsible in when and where you’re vaping, and how many people are about when you are doing it.’
Doctors are considering vaping as a possible factor in the alarming number of hospitalizations among young adults diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that up to 20 per cent of people hospitalized with the virus were between ages 20 and 44 years.
The virus is contagious to adults of any age. But severe symptoms needing hospital care are typically only seen in older people.
Looking for an explanation, some US doctors believe vaping may play a role.
They say vaping – as well as smoking cigarettes- causes lung damage and inflammation that can make it easier for the virus to invade the tissue and cause more serious infection.
Both smoking and vaping also affect the immune system in several ways.
For one, they damage the tiny hairlike structures, called cilia, in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, that act like a filtration system, catching toxins and expelling them.
The cilia move foreign particles out of the lungs so you can cough them out. Without them, the particles are able to move through the respiratory tract and deep into the lungs.
This would increase the risk of pneumonia, Dr Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, warned on a blogpost titled: ‘Reduce your risk of serious lung disease caused by coronavirus by quitting smoking and vaping.’
When asked if vaping could be what’s driving up the risk of more severe COVID-19 infection among younger people in the US, he told DailyMail.com: ‘The answer is that it could be – but I don’t think that we can say that it is yet.’
Coronavirus is a respiratory disease, which is why those with a compromised respiratory system, such as those with asthma, are within the vulnerable category.
Many smokers, either current or former who have switched to vaping, already have poorer respiratory health caused by years or even decades of smoking.
This could be potentially fatal.
Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, posted an article on her blog that said: ‘Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.
‘Vaping, like smoking, may also harm lung health. Whether it can lead to COPD is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection.
‘In one NIH-supported study, for instance, influenza virus-infected mice exposed to these aerosols had enhanced tissue damage and inflammation.’
Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, told Britons if they had considered quitting their smoking habits, now is the time to do it.
He told MPs on March 5: ‘To be clear on smokers, my recommendation is that they stop smoking. If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.
‘I’m just highlighting that as an additional vulnerability for people who are otherwise healthy.’
He did not reference vaping.