The Massachusetts Attorney General and Massachusetts General Hospital issued a warning Thursday about the potential increased dangers and risks associated with smoking and vaping during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an advisory sent to medical professionals, educators and parent groups, Attorney General Maura Healey and Mass. General warned that smoking or vaping may put people into a higher risk category, could make COVID-19 infections worse and may increase the spread of the virus.
“The threat of COVID-19 further highlights the dangers that e-cigarettes pose, especially to our young people,” Healey said.
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The American Vaping Association issued a statement Thursday condemning Healey's advisory.
"Healey's decision to use a pandemic for political purposes is shameful," said Gregory Conley, the organization's president. "There remains no evidence linking vaping to negative COVID-19 outcomes. Lung illnesses and deaths that occurred in Massachusetts last year were linked by the CDC to illicit THC vaping products, not legal nicotine vaping products. Adult smokers should not be scared off from switching to smoke-free nicotine products by unscrupulous politicians out to generate headlines."
Healey's advisory warns that smoking or vaping could increase the chances that a person will be infected with the coronavirus and need hospitalization and advanced life support to survive.
Studies show that if a person who smokes catches COVID-19, they are more likely to develop a severe case of the virus than those with no smoking history. Flavored tobacco products, which are especially appealing to young people, can also make lung infections worse.
The advisory also warns that smoking and vaping damage lungs and weaken the body’s immune system, allowing the coronavirus to more easily enter the lung and attach to lung cells. Because COVID-19 is easily spread through hand-to-mouth contact, common when using or sharing smoking and vaping products, smoking and vaping could increase the spread of the virus.
The advisory encourages those who vape or smoke to make every effort to quit, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are at a critical moment when it comes to combating the coronavirus pandemic — supplies and equipment are in short supply and intensive care units are filling up,” said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, director of pediatric research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center and a Harvard Medical School professor. “My message today is that it’s so important you do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. If you are smoking or vaping, I urge you to quit. Quitting during this pandemic could not only save your life, but by preventing the need for treatment in a hospital, you might also save someone else’s life.”
Healey has been at the forefront of the fight against youth vaping in Massachusetts. In February, her office sued Juul for marketing and selling its e-cigarettes to young people.