Don’t smoke while wearing a mask: Here’s why
Study author Professor Ignatios Ikonomidis of National and Kapodistrian University in Athens, Greece said: “Research shows that smoking any tobacco product becomes even more dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic- 19 because he had to wear a mask for many hours.” “Previous research has shown that impaired vascular function is associated with heart problems and early death.”
The study focused on traditional (flammable) and unburnt tobacco, also known as “unheated” or “heated” tobacco products. Unburnt tobacco contains tobacco that is heated electronically at a lower temperature than combustible tobacco, creating an inhaled aerosol containing nicotine. The study did not include e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) that electronically heat nicotine-containing liquids to produce an aerosol that is inhaled.
The researchers investigated carbon monoxide levels exhaled by smokers wearing a mask during work hours and compared it to carbon monoxide levels during non-mask holidays. In a second step, the researchers tested whether changes in carbon monoxide exposure were accompanied by impaired vascular function.
The study included 40 smokers of conventional cigarettes, 40 smokers of exclusive heat-burning tobacco, and 40 non-smokers of similar age and sex who were medical staff in a university hospital. Those with known cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, chronic kidney disease or atrial fibrillation were excluded as these conditions may affect vascular function.
The researchers measured exhaled carbon monoxide after taking a deep breath and markers of vascular function (pulse wave velocity, elevation index, and central systolic blood pressure). The baseline assessment was performed early in the morning after sleeping without a mask to obtain values after a long period of non-smoking. Participants were randomly selected for a second assessment after an eight-hour shift wearing a mask or eight hours without a mask. They then moved on to a third assessment after eight hours without a mask or eight hours of work with a mask.
The average age of the participants was 45 years old and 72% were women. A similar quantity of combustible or unburnt tobacco is smoked during masked and unmasked periods. In regular cigarette smokers, exhaled carbon monoxide increased from 8.00 parts per million (ppm) at baseline to 12.15 ppm without a mask and 17.45 ppm with a mask on. In smokers of unburnt tobacco, exhaled carbon monoxide increased from 1.15 ppm at baseline to 1.43 ppm without a mask and 2.20 ppm with a mask on. In non-smokers, exhaled carbon monoxide showed no difference between baseline, unmasked, and masked periods.
Professor Ikonomidis said: “Compared with smokers of combustible tobacco, smokers of unburnt tobacco had lower baseline carbon monoxide levels and a smaller increase in vascular damage when wearing a mask. However, the findings were showed that smoking any tobacco product while wearing a mask may further impair vascular function than the period without a mask, at least in part due to re-inhalation of more carbon monoxide and/or slightly richer in nicotine.