There is no scientific evidence that vaping – smoking using an electronic cigarette – presents an increased danger of infection by Covid-19 to those in the immediate surroundings, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.
Prof Van Gucht was commenting on a call from the Anti-Cancer Foundation (STK) for vaping to be banned on cafe terraces because of the added danger it presents.
“The vapour released by e-cigarettes contains a lot of water vapour, and therefore a lot of aerosols, which increases the risk of spreading the virus,” the foundation said. “And we know that aerosols – tiny water droplets – can carry the virus.”
“There is no scientific evidence of that,” Van Gucht said.
According to STK, the vapour also travels a greater distance than ordinary cigarette smoke, which means that the social distance of 1.5m is not enough.
There is an increasing body of scientific evidence that aerosols travel far beyond the usual distancing limit, but the jury is still out on whether the aerosols contain the virus.
And it stressed that its demand was based on “a theoretical deduction. There is no definitive scientific evidence here. If we present this argument, it is from a sense of precaution.”
Van Gucht was asked about the foundation’s claim at the Friday press conference of the crisis centre.
“Let me start by saying that smoking is never a good idea,” he said.
“Whether the regular cigarette or the e-cigarette, smoking causes damage to the lungs, inflammation of the lung tissue, and that means an additional risk factor for complications with lung infection. We cannot endorse that.”
A survey of 4,351 young people aged 13-24 was carried out in May this year. Among those who had used e-cigarettes only, the incidence of a Covid-19 diagnosis was five times higher than normal. Among those who had used e-cigarettes and ordinary cigarettes the incidence was seven times higher.
“Covid-19 is associated with youth use of e-cigarettes only and dual use of e-cigarettes and cigarettes, suggesting the need for screening and education,” the paper concludes.