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Is There Actually a Link Between Vaping and COVID-19?

Jack Drennan had tried to quit vaping before, but it took a global pandemic to make him finally follow through.

“I heard you get a lot sicker if you do vape and get coronavirus, so it kind of [pushed me] to quit,” says the Mississippi 20-year-old. Plus, “my mom’s on my ass [about it].”

Speculation about a link between vaping and COVID-19 has grown in recent weeks. News reports have noted that some young, hospitalized COVID-19 patients also vaped, and at a tele-town hall on March 19, a constituent asked New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi about the possibility of a connection. The National Institute on Drug Abuse wrote on its blog that people with substance-use disorders, including those who vape, could be especially hard-hit by COVID-19. In various corners of the internet, fringe theories with little-to-no scientific evidence have popped up making connections between a prior outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses in the U.S. and COVID-19.

But is there any actual link between vaping and coronavirus? Experts say it’s impossible to say for sure.

Preliminary data show that a fairly high number of U.S. hospitalizations have been among younger adults—the same population known for vaping. At this point, though, that’s just an interesting observation; there is no real data to back up an association between vaping rates and COVID-19 rates in young adults.

The science around vaping is in general evolving. While some studies have shown that vaping can lead to lung damage and other health problems, the products have not been on the market long enough to speak confidently about their long-term effects. The science around COVID-19, which did not exist three months ago, is also still evolving. Putting the two topics together, then, makes for a lot of uncertainty.

Having a preexisting condition—especially one related to respiratory health—increases the chances that someone will experience complications from COVID-19, so it’s reasonable to think vaping could play a part. But since scientists can’t say for sure that vaping leads to lung disease or other chronic conditions, it’s also difficult to say whether it opens people up to more risks associated with COVID-19.

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Combustible cigarette-smoking is a clearer cause for concern during the outbreak, says Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. Early data suggest men are more susceptible to COVID-19 than women, which could be associated with the fact that more men than women smoke—especially in China. Smoking-related conditions, such as heart and lung disease, put people at risk of more severe illnesses, Siegel says. Smoking also inhibits the body’s ability to heal from infections, he adds.

But “with vaping, we just don’t know,” Siegel says. “We don’t have the evidence.”

Yasmin Thanavala, an immunologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, says some of her group’s animal research suggests vaping may prevent the body from healing from bacterial infections. COVID-19, of course, is a viral infection, but Thanavala says “on a theoretical basis,” a similar effect could apply. There’s not conclusive evidence to say so definitively, though.

Even assuming vaping does cause some amount of lung damage, it’s unlikely that most people who vape have been using e-cigarettes long enough to see the full brunt of it, says Dr. Steve Schroeder, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The exceptions, of course, are patients who got sick during a vaping-related lung injury outbreak last year, which health authorities traced mainly back to THC vape products spiked with the additive vitamin E acetate.

Daniel Ament, a 17-year-old from Michigan who needed a double lung transplant after vaping, is one such patient. “I definitely am [at higher risk for COVID-19],” he says. “[Doctors] didn’t have to tell me that.” Given his past lung injury and fragile immune system post-transplant, Ament is staying inside, wearing a mask almost constantly and visiting his doctors and therapists virtually. His whole family self-quarantined starting last week, to avoid bringing home germs.

E-cigarette users without a known lung injury should not quit if it means they’ll go back to using combustible tobacco, Siegel says. “Relapsing to smoking is the worst thing they could do.” But for recreational vapers, COVID-19 may be the final push needed to quit—and that’s a silver-lining to the situation, Siegel says.

“It’s always better not to be breathing chemicals into your lungs. I would have said that even without this particular outbreak,” he says. “It would certainly be a potential incentive to get people who are vaping to stop, just as a precautionary measure.”

By Jamie Ducharme March 23, 2020

Source: Is There Actually a Link Between Vaping and COVID-19?

Becuase the coronavirus directly attacks the lungs, it could be more dangerous for people who have weaker lungs from smoking or vaping. Learn more about this story at https://www.newsy.com/98596/ Find more videos like this at https://www.newsy.com Follow Newsy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newsy Follow Newsy on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/newsy

 

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The Federal Legal Age to Buy Tobacco Products Has Been Raised to 21

An illustration shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018. – In just three years, the electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul has swallowed the American market with its vaporettes in the shape of a USB key. Its success represents a public health dilemma for health authorities in the United States and elsewhere. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH / AFP) (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

The federal legal age for purchasing tobacco products has been increased from 18 to 21 in a move the American Lung Association said will “reduce youth access to tobacco products and help save lives.”

That provision, part of a $1.4 trillion spending bill which President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday, would apply not only to traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars, but also to e-cigarettes—products that have lately been caught in regulatory cross-hairs, sparked by rising rates of use among teenagers.

According to the latest federal data, 27.5% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the past month. Raising the legal age of purchase is meant in part to curb that trend by preventing teenagers from buying vaping products, either for personal use or to distribute to younger classmates.

So-called “Tobacco 21” legislation has already been implemented in almost 20 states as well as numerous cities across the country. The new legislation, which will take effect in the summer of 2020, would make 21 the mandatory minimum age of purchase for all states. Tobacco 21 is the rare policy supported by both public-health groups and pro-vaping advocates, although the latter’s support sometimes raises eyebrows among the former.

Public health officials support it on the premise that it would theoretically keep tobacco products away from young people—which is especially important since most smokers start before they’re 21. In a statement provided to TIME, the American Lung Association called it an “easy way to protect children’s health and prevent future generations from getting hooked on nicotine.”

Vaping advocates, meanwhile, support Tobacco 21 for several reasons. Tony Abboud, executive director of the trade group Vapor Technology Association, said in a statement provided to TIME that Tobacco 21 is “the most significant step that can be taken to reduce youth access and use.”

By keeping nicotine products away from young users, for whom they are not intended, Tobacco 21 could also ease some of the hysteria around teen vaping. Further, it could preempt more dramatic proposals, like the all-out ban on flavored vaping products that Trump teased this fall—and then abandoned in favor of Tobacco 21.

Longer-term, it brings much-needed regulation to an industry that has proliferated largely unchecked. E-cigarettes were not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until 2016, so any brand for sale before then entered the market without agency approval. By the time the FDA started cracking down on vaping companies for their marketing or for producing kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy around 2018, an underage-use epidemic had already started.

Reigning in the wild west of the vaping industry through legislation like Tobacco 21 could enhance the industry’s legitimacy and give it a better shot at surviving when the FDA decides next spring whether to pull e-cigarettes off the market entirely.

Of course, losing an undeniably lucrative customer base—teenagers—will have some negative effect on vaping companies’ bottom lines. But David Levy, who researches the science and business of e-cigarettes at Georgetown University, says companies will likely come out fairly unscathed. “While sales would be reduced, firms selling vaping devices and liquids will probably indirectly benefit, because regulations will be less strict due to less concern about youth vaping,” Levy says.

The policy could also have an outsized benefit for companies like market-leader Juul Labs, and large competitors like Vuse. Juul, a lucrative startup backed by Big Tobacco firm Altria and valued at around $16 billion, can survive the hit that will come from shrinking its pool of legal buyers; Vuse, though less dominant, is also owned by a deep-pocketed Big Tobacco giant, R.J. Reynolds. But small mom-and-pop operations may not be able to, and some could fold. If they do, that means more market share available for the taking for Juul—which, even now, controls up to 70% of the U.S. market.

Source: The Federal Legal Age to Buy Tobacco Products Has Been Raised to 21.

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The American Lung Association has advocated for increasing the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21 because it will help save lives. In December 2019, the legislation was included in the federal year-end legislative package and passed by both houses of Congress. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law on December 20, 2019. It will take effect later in 2020. https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/…

 

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