Smoking and vaping-related lung injuries create an underlying medical condition that can make people more susceptible to respiratory infections like the flu and COVID-19, according to experts at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s department of emergency medicine.

“Both COVID-19 and vaping can severely affect the respiratory system, damaging lung tissue,” said Lewis Nelson, chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “These effects may be permanent and significantly increase one’s risk for severe illness, pneumonia and other complications, or death.”

“Healthcare and public health professionals find themselves in uncharted waters as they navigate patient care during co-existing, novel health crises that exhibit overlapping respiratory signs and symptoms such as lung injuries and COVID-19,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “It’s important to consider that respiratory failure may be the result of vaping-associated lung injury and not just COVID-19.”