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Severe COVID-19 Infections More Likely In Marijuana Smokers And Vapers

Cannabis smoke and vaping combustion could damage the lungs and suppress the immune system, causing more severe coronavirus symptoms.

Health officials are now warning marijuana and vape users to reconsider their habits amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Though studies have found marijuana can lower symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, lung health experts say cannabis use could increase your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

No public data links smoking or vaping with the coronavirus in the United States, but researchers believe those behaviors played a role in the outbreaks seen in Italy and China. A study of more than 40,000 coronavirus cases in China reported men were more likely to become infected than women. Men suffered a 2.8% fatality rate in the China study while women were at 1.7%.

One hypothesis supported by Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, theorizes that the difference in fatalities is tied to smoking. A 2010 national survey found that 62% of men had been smokers in their lifetime and only 3% of women. A New Jersey Journal of Medicine study stated that severe COVID-19 infections were more than twice as likely in Chinese coronavirus patients who smoked versus those that didn’t.

RELATED: NORML Gives Marijuana Consumption Safety Guidelines During Coronavirus Outbreak

“From China and Italy, we see people who developed COVID-19 and had underlying lung disease, [they] have more complications and die more often,” Dr. Barry J. Makea pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, told Insider. “So this is the perfect time to stop smoking.”

How Does Smoking Marijuana Affect Your Lungs Exactly?
Photo by JP Yim/Stringer/Getty Images

Studies show tobacco smoking compromises the immune system and causes lung inflammation. According to the American Lung Association, marijuana smoke injures cell linings in the lung, leading to wheezing and phlegm problems commonly reported by heavy users. The ALA adds that frequent cannabis-only smokers experience more respiratory-related healthcare visits versus nonsmokers.

RELATED: New To Smoking Marijuana? Expect Coughing, Anxiety, And Paranoia

Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, alongside Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, pediatric research director at the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, issued an advisory warning this week warning residents the poses smoking and vaping posed amid the pandemic.

“Inhaling combusted or vaped cannabis products can damage lung cells, may increase viral replication, and does affect the ability to fight off infection,” Dr. Winickoff told The New York Times. “Clean air is what the lungs should be inhaling, especially during a global pandemic.”

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