Alternatives to traditional cigarettes have become increasingly common in recent years, under the assumption that they are at least somewhat safer for a person’s overall health compared to cigarettes, which burn tobacco leaves to produce a smoke that is inhaled. In fact, some claim that it’s a safe way to help with smoking cessation.
Heated tobacco products in particular, which are similar to the pervasive vape or e-cigarette, work by heating tobacco and create a vapor that can be inhaled, which avoids the need to burn the tobacco to avoid the carcinogenic nature of inhale burnt tobacco. However, there is little research examining the long-term health impacts of heated tobacco products, unlike traditional cigarettes, which have been studied extensively. Along with newer disease risks, such as COVID-19 infection, there’s a need to know more about the long-term effect of heated tobacco products.
A team of researchers at Osaka Metropolitan University Graduate Medical School recently conducted a study to understand the link between heated tobacco products and health outcomes; in particular, the team looked at how these products affect COVID-19 infection and the risk of severe COVID-19. Their work is described in a recent article published in Scientific Reports.
During the study, researchers asked over 30,000 people to complete an online survey asking about their conditions of living. The participants were 16 to 81 years of age and were randomly selected. As part of the survey, researchers gathered information about tobacco or heated tobacco product usage as well as COVID-19 history.
Overall, researchers found that people who used a heated tobacco product (including people who used heated products and traditional cigarettes) were more likely to contract COVID-19 compared to people who did not use either product. Among people who used some kind of tobacco product, people who used both heated tobacco products and traditional cigarettes were more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization.
Researchers hope these findings help people understand that heated tobacco products can still increase the risk of illness, including severe illness, especially when it comes to COVID-19.
Sources: Eurekalert!; Scientific Reports