As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout communities around the world, public health messaging has suggested that teens may experience mild cases of the virus. However, teens who vape may show worsening symptoms, due to the unknown extent of lung injuries from electronic cigarette devices.
Sahara Byrne, professor of communications at Cornell University, studies when and why youth resist campaigns, interventions and policies designed to protect them from engaging in risky behaviors.
Byrne is part of a team of Cornell researchers who are studying the most effective health warnings to include in advertisements for electronic cigarettes and addressing a paradox presented by the required warnings: discouraging adolescents from developing nicotine addictions through e-cigarettes, but not scaring off adult smokers for whom e-cigarettes might represent a healthier alternative to combustible cigarettes.
“I’m concerned about the teen population with coronavirus. The messaging is that it will be mild for them, but many adults in their lives do not know that they have been vaping. Around 30% of them have likely been vaping. Many keep it secret from their parents.
“It concerns me that parents may resist taking their teen to the hospital if symptoms worsen, under the belief that young people are not high risk. We don’t know what the extent of their lung injuries are, and we have no idea how this injury relates to coronavirus. It’s something to consider if you are a parent or in charge of a high population of teens and young adults.”