The media hysteria surrounding the COVID-19 (corona virus) pandemic has found its way to misinforming the public about vaping. Yet again the vaping community is under attack. The most recent news is that individuals who vape are more susceptible to catching the virus. This misinformation is led by University of California at San Francisco professor Stanton Glantz. Professor Glantz raises both smoking and vaping to the same level, calling them both serious risk factors for progression severe conditions of COVID-19. He boldly states:
“The recent excellent summary of the evidence on the pulmonary effects of e-cigarettes reported multiple ways that e-cigarettes impair lungs’ ability to fight off infection:”
Glantz then lists a series of effects of vaping on respiratory infections, taken from a review of studies by J.E. Gotts et al’s “What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes”. Scientific American also cites Glantz yet recognizes that “Vapers’ risk of viral infections has not been studied much”. Hmmm, ya’ don’t say…
Another rumor circulating within the vape community is that Propylene Glycol, better known as PG which is used in e-liquid, can disinfect the virus. Wouldn’t that be awesome to know that vaping, the one thing our country’s legislature has been so hell bent to destroy over the past few years is the one thing that can save your life from COVID-19? Well, for the life of the vaping community, we ourselves need to be very careful not to fall to the level of mainstream medias saturation of misinformation.
Can Propylene Glycol Disinfect COVID-19?
The Propylene Glycol rumor is based off two studies done back in the 1940’s that tested the affects of propylene glycol vapor on air-borne influenza (links to read these studies yourself are provided at the end of this article). One study tested by pumping PG vapor in a controlled area containing the influenza virus and the other study tested by using lab mice with the flu virus and exposing a group of those mice to PG vapor. The results were that the influenza virus was neutralized and that the lab mice that were exposed to the vapor lived while the non-propylene glycol vapor exposed, flu mice, died.
It would be great to just leave it at that and say all vapers’ are immune to COVID-19, but that wouldn’t be right. The fact of the matter is this, people do not live in perfect laboratory air environments and we aren’t lab mice. We’re people. What also needs to be considered is that our e-liquids also contain vegetable glycerin and nicotine in some. These added variables add some grey to giving a definitive answer of Propylene Glycol vapor being the cure for the corona virus.
The relationship between long term smokers and cardiovascular and respiratory problems has been known for a very long time. However, the correlation between the identified vulnerability of the mentioned diseases (mostly in seniors) and the progression of severe conditions of COVID-19 are still uncertain.
There is NO gripping evidence that says vaping alone can increase the risk of getting infected or progressing to a severe condition of COVID-19. The only connection is that many vapers’ were once ex-smoker or still do smoke and that any vapers’ who were long term smokers may exhibit conditions deemed as vulnerabilities to the infection.
Propylene Glycol vapor can wipeout pathogens acting as a disinfectant, but only under specific conditions. There isn’t any evidence that this effect will work in the context of vaping. We simply do not know.
S.A. Glantz, Reduce your risk of serious lung disease caused by corona virus by quitting smoking and vaping. https://tobacco.ucsf.edu/reduce-your-risk-serious-lung-disease-caused-corona-virus-quitting-smoking-and-vaping
J.E. Gotts et al. What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes? BMJ 2019;366:l5275. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5275
Tanya Lewis. Smoking or Vaping May Increase the Risk of Severe Coronavirus Infection. Scientific American. 17 March. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smoking-or-vaping-may-increase-the-risk-of-a-severe-coronavirus-infection1/
Robertson O.H., Bigg E., Puck T.T., Miller B.F., Technical Assistance of Elizabeth A. Appell. The bactericidal action of propylene glycol vapor on microorganisms suspended in air: I. J Exp Med. 1942 Jun 1;75(6):593-610. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19871209
Puck T.T., Robertson O.H., Lemon H.M., The bactericidal action of propylene glycol vapor on microorganisms suspended in air: II, the influence of various factors on the activity of the vapor. J Exp Med. 1943 Nov 1;78(5):387-406. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19871337