The FDA says smoking can result in “worse outcomes” for people with Covid-19 because it increases the risk of respiratory infections, for instance, and e-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, with unknown effects for people who get the virus.
Many messages dismissing links between the virus and vaping or smoking came from authors, scientists or publications that have received indirect funding from companies that sell cigarettes or vape devices. Often the funding behind these messages is indirect and traces back to Philip Morris International’s non-profit Foundation for a Smoke Free World, or FSFW.
As the global pandemic strains the world’s inventory of medical supplies, the tobacco and vaping industries are taking advantage of a unique opportunity, offering freebie protective gear, doorstep deliveries and festive pandemic-themed discounts. Some players have donated ventilators and mounted charity campaigns.
The tobacco companies insist they are simply doing their part to help during the crisis. But the coronavirus-related marketing has been criticized by anti-smoking advocates who call it hypocritical and potentially dangerous. They note that people with lungs damaged by smoking are at an elevated risk if they catch the virus, and that vaping has been linked to a growth in tobacco use, particularly among teens.
Smoking is dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Petition to the COVID-19 National Task-force: Government has a Duty to Protect Public Health Laws and Policies from Commercial and Other Vested Interests of the Tobacco Industry
Under the WHO’s framework convention on tobacco control, Uganda is not supposed to deal with the tobacco industry. Partnership with the tobacco industry undermines governments’ credibility in protecting population health as there is ‘a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests’.
By donating, the two companies are trying to improve their corporate image by showing social responsibility to the population, media and decision makers. This is also intended to send deceptive messages to the public about Tobacco Industry operations and their products.
It is not ideal for smokers to have to suddenly stop smoking without having had the time to make that decision themselves. But these are not ideal times for anyone and there are many sources of support, and counseling for smokers who want help to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Lockdown regulations introduced a number of restrictions on daily life including restricting all workers – except essential workers – to their homes and limiting the items that could be purchased to essentials such as food, medicines, some baby essentials and toiletries. Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, snuff and hookah pipes were not included as either “essential” or “basic” items, and are not on sale during the lockdown.
Anxious times — like a pandemic — can lead to unhealthy but self-soothing habits, whether it’s reaching for a bag of potato chips, more chocolate or another glass of wine. But some stress-reducing behaviors are alarming to medical experts right now — namely vaping and smoking of tobacco or marijuana.
Because the coronavirus attacks the lungs, this is exactly the moment, they say, when people should be tapering — or better yet, stopping — their use of such products, not escalating them.
On Thursday, Dr. Winickoff joined the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, to issue an advisory alerting the public and particularly young people that smoking and vaping can also exacerbate the risks of spreading COVID-19.
“Quitting during this pandemic could not only save your life, but by preventing the need for your treatment in a hospital, you might also save someone else’s life,” said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, director of pediatric research at the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
With schools closed, college dorms shuttered and social distancing in full swing, many families are spending more time together than they might have planned to. Experts suggest that it’s an opportune time for parents to talk to kids about vaping and help them break the harmful habit.
News reports have noted that some young, hospitalized COVID-19 patients also vaped. 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.
Increasing evidence is suggesting that smokers are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 than those who don’t smoke. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February looked at 1,099 patients in China with COVID-19, showing that of 173 patients who had severe symptoms, 16.9% of them were current smokers and 5.2% had previously smoked. Among the patients with less-severe symptoms, 11.8% were current smokers and 1.3% former smokers.