Coronavirus Prompts Calls to Ban Sales of Cigarettes, Vapes and Pot

Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images A woman smokes an electronic cigarette at the Grand-Place, in Brussels on March 3, 2020.

Smokers get COVID-19 easier than non-smokers and they do worse than non-smokers if they end up hospitalized, according to new studies that are now leading some public health officials to call for states to temporarily ban sales of cigarettes as well as vapes and marijuana.

Although it’s unclear at this point how much support there really is for any type of sales bans, government officials are increasingly urging smokers of all types who eventually want to quit smoking to double-down on those efforts now while everyone is social distancing and self-isolating.

The most recent update from the Surgeon General of the United States, the 2020 Smoking Cessation Report, noted that while the number of Americans who smoke has dropped by 67 percent since 1965 that still means that “Approximately 34 million American adults currently smoke cigarettes, with most of them smoking daily. Nearly all adult smokers have been smoking since adolescence. More than two- thirds of smokers say they want to quit, and every day thousands try to quit.”

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty ImagesA man wearing a mask to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19, known as coronavirus, smokes a cigarette in Washington, DC, April 7, 2020.

Given that number of smokers across the country, “Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States,” the report concluded.

Vaping Companies Aren’t Happy About Being Included in the Warnings

Perhaps not surprisingly, advocates of vaping and marijuana use are taking issue with their particular pastimes being singled out as especially dangerous during the current global pandemic, making a variety of arguments including that vaping is preferable to smoking tobacco and that legal sales of smoking products remains a better idea than suddenly stirring the coals of a black market for cigarettes back to life.

The obvious concern about COVID-19 with smokers and vape users of any type is that this new coronavirus is a respiratory disease, so it’s clear that lung capacity and function can make a life-or-death difference in determining which patients eventually pull through to recover and which ones die.

While smoking cigarettes and marijuana roaches seems to be the more dangerous activity out of the range of possibilities, health experts are warning that basically anything that introduces smoke or vapor into the lungs, even for the most occassional of smokers, seems like a bad idea in the middle of a pandemic where victims most often end up hospitalized because of shortness of breath.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty ImagesA man calling himself Henry Hemp inhales marijuana using a vaporizer pen at HempCon medical marijuana show, May 24, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Drug Use and Addiction Recovery Also Create Risks for Those Who Contract COVID-19

Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse which is part of the National Institutes of Health, published an article in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine this week warning that since “Patients with already compromised lung conditions may be at higher risk for more severe complications from COVID-19. Specifically, people who smoke or vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine may face heightened risk.”

“In addition, chronic opioid use already increases the risk of slowed breathing due to hypoxemia, which can lead to cardiac and pulmonary complications that may result in overdose and death. While all people should be taking precautions to prevent exposure to COVID-19, this is particularly critical for higher risk groups, including people who smoke, vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine,” Volkow suggested.

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