A statewide medical group on Sunday called for a complete ban on the sale of vaping products, arguing the use of e-cigarettes and similar devices will help spread coronavirus in New York.
The group, the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue an executive order banning the sale of vaping products in New York during the crisis.
“As our state and country struggle to respond to the rapidly evolving and escalating COVID-19 pandemic affecting our residents and straining our healthcare system, mounting evidence demonstrates the link between tobacco use and increased risk for progressive COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Keber, the group’s president.
New York had already moved toward a ban on flavored vaping products amid health concerns that arose last year. State lawmakers were expected to take further action in the budget, which is due to be approved next week.
The group pointed to studies that found linkages between e-cigarette usage or smoking and the elevated risk of contracting the virus.
“People with decreased lung function caused by smoking or vaping are more likely to develop serious complications caused by infections,” Keber said.
“Now more than ever, it is critical for the State and medical community to take actions to prevent our youth from ever using these highly addictive deadly products and to help our patients to reduce their risks through FDA-approved cessation and telehealth during this pandemic.”
States such as Utah and Vermont ban online e-cigarette sales. The logic of the bans was shaky at best, with supporters claiming it would limit youth vaping. It’s a strange claim, as the market leader Juul has some of the strictest age-verification processes around. It also discriminates against those who may not have easy access to a vape shop but do have easy access to cigarettes.
But amid the outbreak of a highly contagious respiratory disease, online bans are even more counterproductive. Although the evidence is not clear on whether smoking raises the risk of the coronavirus, it’s a good idea for smokers who can’t quit or vapers who may relapse to have access to a dramatically safer product.
Italy, which so far has been hardest hit by the pandemic, reopened its vape shops, making them one of the few essential businesses allowed to continue operations, with France quickly following suit.
As to whether vaping nicotine can increase your risk of harm from the coronavirus, the scientist who persuaded the Italian government to reopen vape shops said in an interview with the harm-reduction publication Filter: “There is no evidence for that. That is just a game that is trying to create a new hysteria.”
Scrapping online sales bans help keep vape shops in business and will prevent unnecessary trips outside of the home, assisting with social distancing and preventing relapse back to smoking. The kinds of e-liquids and devices found in vape shops are not available at your local 7-11 or grocery store. Vapers who want to stay away from cigarettes will have to shell out for new devices or go back to smoking.
As people become more isolated from the outside world, daily life changes, and so too can people’s perspective. Most adult smokers say they want to quit, but very few are successful in doing so. E-cigarettes have helped millions of people who may never have otherwise given up smoking quit their habit once and for all. Being primarily confined to the home, especially with children, may give smokers fresh impetus to try something different, to switch away from harmful combustible tobacco to vaping.
As the actions of governors around the country have shown, measures large and small are needed to protect public health. If you can limit the spread of the coronavirus and get people to quit smoking cigarettes at the same time, that’s a public health measure everyone should get on board with.