BOSTON (Mass.gov)– In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Maura Healey and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) today issued a warning to the public about the potential increased dangers and risks associated with smoking and vaping for young people and adults.
In an advisory sent to medical professionals, educators, and parent and advocacy groups, AG Healey and MGH warn 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. This is especially concerning for young people because of the epidemic of youth vaping in Massachusetts and across the country.
“The threat of COVID-19 further highlights the dangers that e-cigarettes pose, especially to our young people,” said AG Healey. “Combatting the youth vaping crisis has never been more important, and we want the public to understand the heightened risks associated with smoking and vaping during this 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 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.”
“As a national grassroots parent organization on the front line of the youth vaping epidemic, Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe) is contacted every day by parents seeking help for their nicotine-addicted kids,” said Dorian Fuhrman and Meredith Berkman, co-founders of PAVe. “With teen vaping at an all-time high and the spread of COVID-19 across the country, millions of young people are at a greater risk of becoming more seriously infected by this deadly virus. Following unprecedented social distancing guidelines, families are sequestered at home and many parents are discovering that their teens have been vaping and are severely addicted. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that parents use multiple resources to assist their kids quit vaping. The COVID-19 warning provided today by Attorney General Maura Healey and Massachusetts General Hospital is extremely important and should be used by parents everywhere. We are so grateful to them for sharing the resources included in this advisory at such a critical time.”
The advisory warns that smoking or vaping could increase the chances that a person will be infected by COVID-19 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, potentially allowing viruses like COVID-19 to more easily attach to lung cells and enter the lungs. 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. It urges the public to share information about these potential risks with people they know who smoke or vape, and stresses the importance of frequent handwashing, social distancing, and not sharing smoking or vaping products.
Resources for quitting tobacco are also provided in the advisory, like using nicotine patches and gum, pairing smoking cessation medications with expert coaching and support, and using common quit lines for coaching and support, including the National Quit Line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
AG Healey has led the effort to combat the youth vaping epidemic in Massachusetts. In February, the AG’s Office sued JUUL Labs Inc. for intentionally marketing and selling its e-cigarettes to young people. AG Healey was the first Attorney General to announce an investigation into JUUL and shed new light on the company’s misconduct. AG Healey also sued eight online e-cigarette retailers for illegally selling and delivering flavored tobacco products to consumers in Massachusetts, in violation of a new state law passed in Nov. 2019. The AG’s Office has also filed a lawsuit against Eonsmoke LLC for marketing and selling products to young people with flavors like “gummy bear” and “cotton candy” and sent cease and desist demands to Direct Eliquid LLC and Kilo E-Liquids, ordering the retailers to stop selling electronic cigarettes in Massachusetts without an adequate age verification system. The AG’s Office continues to investigate e-cigarette companies that it suspects are violating state law. The Office is also in more than 350 schools across the state through the office’s Project Here initiative, which makes free substance use prevention education available to Massachusetts public middle schools.