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Evidence Links Vaping to Increased Risk of COVID-19—Lawmakers Call on FDA to Take Action
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Following the publication of a study linking vaping with an increased risk of COVID-19, U.S. lawmakers have urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove vaping products from the market.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, recently sent a letter to Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the FDA Commissioner calling on the FDA to “clear the market of all e-cigarettes for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.”

Study Shows Use of E-cigarettes Increases Risk of COVID-19 Diagnosis

Krishnamoorthi states in his letter that he urged the FDA to clear the market of vaping products last April 2020, after an investigation revealed that COVID-19 presents greater risks to e-cigarette users. The FDA declined to act at that time, however, citing the need for more evidence.

“Today, we have the evidence that the FDA was waiting for,” the chairman writes. That evidence comes from a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers conducted an online national survey of teens and young adults ranging in age from 13 to 24 years. They asked about COVID-19 related symptoms, testing, diagnosis, and use of cigarettes only, e-cigarettes only, and dual-use.

Results of the study showed that COVID-19 diagnosis was five times more likely among those who used e-cigarettes only, and seven times more likely among dual users. Those using e-cigarettes were also 4.7 times more likely to have symptoms of the virus.

“COVID-19 is associated with youth use of e-cigarettes only and dual use of e-cigarettes and cigarettes,” the researchers concluded, “suggesting the need for screening and education.”

Reduce the Number of Vapers to Reduce Stress on Coronavirus Testing System

Krishnamoorthi notes in his letter that the issue goes beyond the health effects to young people since they can spread the virus to Americans of all ages. He adds that e-cigarettes users “are also posing an outsized burden on our coronavirus testing resources,” since they are nine times more likely to have been tested for COVID-19 than non-users.

“If we reduce the number of vapers in America,” he writes, “we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system.

FDA Bans Flavored E-cigarettes to Stem Use in Young People

The FDA did take steps in January of this year to ban flavored e-cigarette pods in the hopes of reducing the current vaping epidemic among young people. Previous research showed that teens and young adults preferred flavors like mint and fruit, so the hope was that by eliminating these products, fewer students would be attracted to e-cigarettes.

“The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. “By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp for nicotine addiction for our youth.”

Meanwhile, JUUL Labs, the market leader in e-cigarettes, is currently facing hundreds of lawsuits filed by individuals and school districts that believe the company should be held liable for marketing its products to young people and encouraging them to become addicted to nicotine.

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