The vaping industry has shown concern after a group of doctors in New York State called for a temporary ban on sales of e-cigarette products out of concern that vaping could put people at greater risk from COVID-19.
The New York State Academy of Family Physicians (NYSAFP) said state governor Andrew Cuomo should use an executive order to immediately ban sales of e-cigs as well as tobacco products.
“Now more than ever, it is critical for the state and medical community to take actions to prevent our youth from ever using these highly addictive, deadly products and to help our patients to reduce their risks through FDA-approved cessation and telehealth during this pandemic,” NYSAFP president Barbara Keber said.
Keber said the ban on vaping product sales should last for the duration of the pandemic.
The organisation pointed to a study published in the Chinese Medical Journal in February, which looked at 78 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Chinese province of Wuhan, where the outbreak started.
The research, “Analysis of factors associated with disease outcomes in hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus disease”, concluded that smokers were at 14 times greater risk of the disease progressing.
‘Trying to enhance leverage’
In the view of the New York State Vapor Association, the proposal to ban e-cig sales is unrealistic and would deprive people of needed tobacco alternatives.
Andrew Osborne, vice president of the association, told ECigIntelligence that he suspected the doctors’ group was trying to enhance its leverage ahead of an attempt in the legislature to ban flavoured e-cigarette products.
“I think it may be a last-ditch effort by our opponents here in New York State to make sure that that flavour ban is in the budget,” Osborne said.
The New York medical association appears to be the first to call for a temporary ban on e-cigarette sales during the pandemic, but other public figures have expressed concern about the possibility of a link between vaping and the coronavirus.
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer said earlier this month that the high rates of vaping in the US could be related to “severe consequences to our younger people” from COVID-19.
“Perhaps there’s too little science to know precisely if this is what’s going on, but vaping is a lot more popular in the United States than it is elsewhere, and that compromises your respiratory system and makes you more susceptible to respiratory illness,” she said during a press conference in which she told Michigan residents to stay at home.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio claimed earlier in March that smoking or vaping “does make you more vulnerable” to COVID-19. “If you are a smoker or a vaper this is a very good time to stop that habit and we will help you,” he said.
What This Means: New York State authorities have not yet given an official reply to the NYSAFP’s proposal but it is true that banning flavoured e-cigarettes has for some time been a priority for governor Andrew Cuomo.
After Cuomo adopted an emergency regulation banning the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes amid the lung illness outbreak in September 2019, current fears about the coronavirus could give new momentum to his attempts to clamp down on vaping.
The vapour industry in the state is keeping an attentive eye on political movements in that regard and there are fears that New York may move abruptly to a flavour ban at least.
– Julian Hattem ECigIntelligence US correspondent
Photo: Giuseppe Milo