man smoking a cigarette with mask on his chin

What Are the Effects of Smoking and Vaping on COVID-19?

As one of the most preventable causes of death, smoking greatly increases the possibility of developing major long-term illnesses, especially those relating to the heart and lungs. Smoking is also known to weaken the respiratory immune system and increase the susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections. When the world is particularly keen on respiratory health today, we cannot help but question the effects of smoking and vaping on COVID-19.


Scientists first began predicting the relationship between smoking and COVID-19 through other well-known effects of smoking on similar respiratory infections. As seen from the doubled death rate in influenza patients who smoke compared to that of nonsmokers[1], tobacco products were also suspected to raise the severity of Coronavirus symptoms. Without surprise, this was confirmed through a recent study from Stanford. Its findings suggest that individuals who smoke or vape are at double the risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID. Adolescents and young adults who smoke and vape are 6.8 times more likely to catch the virus and 4.7 times more likely to have symptoms[2]. The research also emphasizes that smoking causes a significant increase in the risk of COVID-19 across all genders, races, and ages [2].


The behavioral aspect of first-hand smoking can also increase the risks of contracting COVID-19. Using unclean hands to put smoking devices and tobacco products into the mouth and near the nose can be dangerous. Smokers are also more likely to be outside without masks while smoking, and this absence of protection significantly increases the susceptibility to COVID. But smoking not only affects the first-hand smokers, but also their bystanders. The aerosol of second-hand smoke can heighten the spread of COVID due to the rapid diffusion of droplets[3]. Thus, smokers are highly encouraged to quit smoking by looking beyond the direct health benefits and keeping the community safe.


In these troubling times, we can all join efforts to fight COVID-19 and protect each other by stopping the use of smoking products. Actively participating in smoking cessation programs and events can lead to becoming more educated and developing healthier habits. Countless virtual resources are available to anyone who is seeking to build a better lifestyle regardless of gender, race, age, and culture. From the educational materials of California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN) to the national quit hotline (1-800-QUIT-NOW), the start to a stronger “you” is more attainable than ever.




  1. Olds J, Kabbani N. Is nicotine exposure linked to cardiopulmonary vulnerability to COVID‐19 in the general population?. The FEBS Journal [Internet]. 2020 [cited 15 April 2021];287(17):3651-3655. Available from:
  2. Gaiha S, Cheng J, Halpern-Felsher B. Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and COVID-19 [Internet]. 2020 [cited 15 April 2021]. Available from:
  3. Li J, Martinez M, Frosch D. THE IMPACT OF SMOKING, COMORBIDITIES, AND RACE/ ETHNICITY ON COVID-19 INFECTION [Internet]. SNRT; 2021 p. 3-4. Available from:



Ga Young (Genesis) Seo is an undergraduate in UCLA majoring in Human Biology and Society. She is passionate about tobacco and smoke research and is also involved in California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN) and Campuses Organized and United for Good Health (COUGH) to help collegiate campuses within California implement and enforce 100% smoke and tobacco free policies. She also aspires to become a dentist who is medically and culturally competent by continuously learning and promoting health accessibility through her practices.


Does Seeing Other People Smoke Bother You?

Walking around campus from class to class, seeing other fellow students smoke on campus right under the tobacco-free sign has always bothered me. For their own personal health as well as the well-being of others passing by, I sought to foster a higher level of wellness on our smoke-free campus. Therefore, I strove to increase awareness and compliance of our tobacco and smoke free policy.

When I attended the California Youth Advocacy Network 2019 College Conference earlier this year, several student leaders, faculty, and administrators from various other smoke-free college campuses across California voiced their concerns that policy enforcement is also the number one issue that is preventing their campuses from becoming 100% smoke and tobacco free. A project I have worked on that could address this issue is a “tobacco school” safety course similar to traffic school. This way, the policy could still have teeth, without the pressure of a full citation, and violators could also benefit by educating them about the harmful effects of smoking.

In partnership with the California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN), I am working with Dr. Michael Ong, co-leader of the BreatheWell Pod for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, to create the “UCLA Tobacco Free Campus BreatheWell Program,” a course that will educate campus violators about the issues of smoking that can substitute a full citation. The process to initiate this program has definitely been quite involved — meeting with key stakeholders, reviewing the materials developed for CYAN for the “tobacco school”, and developing a course workflow — but we are quite fortunate to be able to adapt the approach of the existing “BruinBikeSmart” course, saving valuable time and resources. Personally, I enjoyed CYAN’s learning module, as it was very interactive and engaging, and I believe that this course can appeal to all students and faculty by opening their eyes to quitting smoking. I hope that once this program is successfully launched, UCLA will set a precedent for other UC’s and college campuses, just as it did back in 2013 when it became the first UC smoke-free campus, to implement a similar tobacco school course to promote the health and well-being of other students and faculty.

In addition to my work on this program, I was also able to research the current UCLA smoke-free policy. Surprised to find that UCLA is one of the UC campuses that is not officially marijuana-free, I took the updated 2018 UCOP smoke-free policy that includes specific marijuana-free sections, and adapted these clauses to the existing UCLA smoke-free policy 810 as a proposed revision. After these findings were discussed during the UCLA tobacco-free task force steering committee meeting, I hope that the changes will soon be finalized, approved, and adopted, so that UCLA can become a marijuana-free campus.

Overall I hope that UCLA will become completely smoke, tobacco, and marijuana free in the future, because the health and wellness of our entire campus community should take priority as part of our Healthy Campus Initiative. I aspire that in the near future, we will all have the ability to breathe fresh, clean, smoke-free air throughout the campus. Do you have any proposals on actions that we can take, together as a student body, to promote a healthier and smoke-free campus? Feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Richmund Tan is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (Class of 2019). In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and championing for a healthier and more breathable campus for our entire community, he aspires to become a physician to improve patient health, stimulate his intellectual curiosity, and advocate for healthcare policy reform. Outside of school, he is also currently working as a policy researcher for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian and volunteering at Cedars-Sinai, hoping to pursue public service leadership at the intersection of government and medicine.


Five Reasons Why Green Spaces are Awesome

Recently at our annual Celebration, the Healthy Campus Initiative officially launched the jane b semel Community Garden located at Sunset Recreation Center, adding a new green space to UCLA’s campus. Opening this “living amphitheater” was a dream come true for the Healthy Campus Initiative, but it is also a valuable addition to UCLA’s campus that holds amazing potential. Read on to find out 5 reasons why green spaces like this are awesome for our well-being.

1. Green Space Boosts Attention

In this study, college students were assigned to three different conditions: nature walk, urban walk, or relaxing with a magazine in a comfortable room with light music. Afterwards, students were tested on their capacity for direct attention. The study found that those who went on a nature walk performed significantly better on the attention tests than those who went on an urban walk or relaxed indoors.

2. Green Space Encourages Physical Activity

Whether it is something as casual as taking a walk or something more intense like hiking, green spaces provide an environment that is conducive for physical exercise. As obvious as it may sound, having easier access to green space has a positive association with an individual’s level of physical activity. For instance, this study found that people who live closer to parks are “more likely to achieve physical activity recommendations and are less likely to be overweight or obese.”

3. Green Spaces Improve Mental Health

One of my favorite things to do on campus is smelling different trees and flowers. The fresh smell of newly cut grass and the sweet fragrance emitted by different flowers make me smile as I walk to my classes.

Research also demonstrates that green space provides benefits to mental health. This study found that among monozygotic or identical twins, those who had greater access to green space had fewer depressive symptoms than their twin counterpart with less access to green space. This is significant because by studying identical twins, the researchers were able to control for genetic and childhood environment factors. The reasons for why green space may benefit mental health are not yet clear, but it is promising that exposure to green space has a positive influence on our mental health.

4. Green Space Cleans the Air

This may not be surprising that trees can improve the air quality. Here are the details:

According to this report from the Forest Service Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in areas with complete tree cover, trees can remove as much of air pollutants as 15% of ozone, 14% of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 8% of nitrous dioxide (NO2), and 0.05% of carbon monoxide (CO) from the air. This is because vegetation, especially trees, can act as natural filters for the air pollutants. Thus, increasing green space will help us breathe well.

5. Green Space Helps Us Eat Well

Green space, especially community gardening has shown to improve food security. According to this study, people were 3.5 times more likely to consume at least five servings of fruit or vegetable on a daily basis if they or their family members were involved in a community garden in the last 12 months. Another study also suggested that gardening increases the likelihood of people meeting the national recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption. More specifically, 56% of those who participate in a community garden met the recommendation, compared to 37% of those who have a home garden and 25% of those who have no gardening involvement.

There are numerous places on campus where we can reap these benefits of green spaces. There is, of course, the newly opened Living Amphitheater Garden at Sunset Rec. But if you are on campus and just want a quick stroll to enjoy the nature, consider visiting Botanical Gardens in South campus or the Sunken Gardens and Sculpture Garden in North campus. If you have any other suggestions for green space on and around campus, please share it with us by commenting below!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.


Stop, Breathe, & Think Mindfulness Challenge

We’re just about halfway through the quarter, and midterms, papers, and the desire to maintain an active social life may be causing some stress to all of our daily lives right about now. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break? Well, you’re in luck! The department of Campus and Student Resilience decided to help motivate students, faculty, and staff to take some time out of their days to relax with their Stop, Breathe, and Think Mindfulness Challenge. The challenge lasts five days, beginning May 1st and ending the 5th, and encourages participants to meditate once a day, for all five days. Worried that you don’t know how to meditate? Don’t worry — by signing up for the challenge, you will receive a text every day for the first week of May with a link to a short (and fun!) guided meditation practice that will support your wellbeing and resilience. What’s great about guided meditation is that there is assistance when trying to reach a calm and mindful state, some are even self-guided so that you can go at your own pace, if that sounds like more your style.

So you get to relax your mind every day, and reap the other benefits of meditation, like improving your immune system, lowering your blood pressure, increasing your ability to concentrate, and reducing stress — sounds divine, right? How about these other benefits of meditation, like increasing work efficiency, developing more creative problem solving skills, and providing better sleep, all of which are perfect for those of us wanting to do the best we can in the classroom during this midterm season.

Right now you’re probably wondering “wait, they want me to participate in a challenge that’s actually really good for me? Sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?” The answer is that there is no catch; the department of Campus and Student Resilience just wants to share the experience of meditation with as many people as possible. In fact, they’re offering prizes to increase the desire for participation! Every participant who completes all five days of the meditation challenge will be entered into a raffle to win some really cool swag, including a $100 gift certificate to the Stop, Breathe, & Think online store, KIND bar snacks and merch, along with some other great prizes. So, rest, benefits for the mind and body, and free stuff? Yeah, you’re hearing that right. If you’re already itching to hit that sign up button before you’ve reached the end of the article, just click here.

The challenge taking place in May has a greater significance than just giving everyone a refreshing boost to make it to the end of the quarter. May is national meditation month, as well as national mental health awareness month (MHAM), so what better way to celebrate than getting our campus community to practice meditation together to kick off week one? MHAM was started in 1949 by Mental Health America to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, and help reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans will be affected by a mental health illness in their lifetime, and many more of us are impacted through our friends and family that are affected. This month is to commemorate those who struggle with mental illness, to show solidarity between those who struggle and those who are comfortable with their mental state, and educate the world about the importance of mental health — it is for everyone, because we all have a mental health of our own.

Try celebrating the month by visiting UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) and check out some of their events like free drop-in meditations or workshops, or download some of their free guided meditations to try along with the challenge, or to help you remain practicing after it’s ended. Check in with yourself and those you care about throughout the month, because we are all affected by life’s challenges differently, and, although we may not all have a mental illness, we all have mental health. Take time during May to practice building resilience in your own life and help friends and family build resilience of their own through meditation and communication.

Sign up for the challenge here anytime before May 1st, and join the other students, faculty, and staff that have decided to give meditation a try. Maybe the challenge will even inspire you to incorporate meditation into your everyday life after it has ended, or maybe it will be that one thing you signed up for on a whim that gave you the boost you needed to power through a stressful time. Let us know how the challenge goes for you by commenting here or online, and share your experiences of the benefits of meditation with those around you, so that they may want to try to benefit from it, as well. Good luck with resilience building, and happy mindfulness challenging!

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.