U.S. lawmakers are pressing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “clear the market” of all vape devices and products, such as JUUL and other brands, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, citing newly published research that links vaping to increased risk of COVID-19 infection and more severe symptoms.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent the letter on Aug. 11 on behalf of the subcommittee.
“The science is now in: e-cigarette users are much likelier to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and to experience symptoms,” the letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn states. “This is true in vapers as young as 13, which is particularly concerning, given that young people are increasingly driving the spread of COVID-19, threatening the health and safety of Americans of all ages.”
The subcommittee gave Dr. Hahn one week to respond to the subcommittee’s request for a shutdown of the vape market.
The study cited by the subcommittee was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on Aug. 11. Based on a survey of 4,351 young people ranging from ages 13 to 24, researchers found that young people who vape or have vaped in the past are five times more likely to become infected by COVID-19 than those who never vaped.
For young people who both vaped and used conventional tobacco cigarettes, the likelihood of COVID-19 infection was seven times higher.
“We thought that we’d see some relationship. We did not expect to see a five to seven times more likely relationship. That’s huge,” study leader Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, professor of pediatrics and director of research in the division of adolescent medicine at Stanford University in California, said of the findings, according to CNN Health.
Young people who said they had vaped in the past 30 days are also 2.6 times more likely to be tested for COVID-19, according to the study. Those who both vape and smoke are nine times more likely to be tested – a significant finding as coronavirus tests have been notoriously short in supply and expensive.
“If we reduce the number of vapers in America, we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system,” the subcommittee’s letter to the FDA states. “People should not have to wait weeks for COVID-19 test results — removing the risk posed by vaping will help.”
Dr. Halpern-Felsher said that while they can’t say for certain yet why the risks and rates of COVID illness are alarmingly higher among those who vape, researchers think there are multiple factors in play. Sharing vape products, the frequent and repetitive hand-to-mouth motion, touching the face more frequently, and inhaling vapor containing the virus exhaled from other vapers all likely play a role.
“We’ve seen adolescents who are vaping having asthma. We’ve seen seizures. We’ve seen bronchitis, pneumonia, hospitalizations, lung collapsing and now we’re seeing COVID,” Halpern-Felsher said about the study results, according to CNN Health.
Researchers found that of the total study population, 32% were medically vulnerable for severe COVID-19 illness. But when the group of participants who vaped or smoked was subtracted from the analysis, the percentage of medically vulnerable population dropped by half, to 16%.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. Recognizing the critical threat to young people ensnared by nicotine addiction, and its effect on our nation’s educational system, our firm has also joined other nationally recognized law firms to represent school districts and public entities across the country in the fight to stop the school vaping crisis.