Absurd and Irresponsible: Vape Shops… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Absurd and Irresponsible: Vape Shops Claim They Are Essential When Vaping May Worsen Effects of COVID-19 and Has Addicted Millions of Kids

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 15, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As we combat the coronavirus, it has never been more important to have healthy lungs. So it is absurd and irresponsible for vape shops to claim they are essential businesses that should be allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 shutdown. How in the world can vape shops make these claims when over 5 million kids use e-cigarettes and there is mounting concern among public health experts that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19? Vape shops should not be allowed to exploit a lung health crisis to push products that harm your lungs – especially products often sold in kid-friendly flavors like mint, gummy bear and cotton candy.

News reports indicate vape shops are lobbying the Trump Administration to be listed as essential, and they have similarly lobbied states and cities across the country. The Administration and other policy makers must reject these efforts. Now more than ever, our priority should be protecting the health and lungs of kids, not the special interests of vape shops.

The reasons to reject these vape shop appeals are clear.

The coronavirus attacks the lungs, and behaviors that weaken the lungs put individuals at greater risk. The harmful impact of smoking on the lungs is well documented, and there is growing evidence that vaping can harm lung health as well. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, recently noted, “Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.” The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, has publicly stated that people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, and this “includes people who smoke and/or vape tobacco or nicotine-containing products.”

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, e-cigarettes were addicting a new generation of kids and reversing decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide increased to 27.5% in 2019 compared to 11.7% in 2017. Altogether, more than 5.3 million middle and high school students now use e-cigarettes.

While youth e-cigarette addiction has risen sharply, there is scant evidence that e-cigarettes benefit public health. Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a comprehensive report based on the best available evidence that found “there is presently inadequate evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes, in general, increase smoking cessation.”

It is highly irresponsible to argue that e-cigarettes should be considered essential when they could well put users at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19, they are addicting our kids, and they have not been proven to help smokers quit. Rather than protecting vape shops, policy makers should act now to help more smokers and vapers quit and to prevent kids from ever starting to use tobacco products, including by prohibiting all flavored tobacco products. The coronavirus pandemic should serve as a wakeup call to make our lungs healthier now and for the future.