Tobacco Harm Reduction Network (Thailand)

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Misinformation Linking COVID-19 to Vaping is Hurting Public Health

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Hamilton, ON, May 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) is concerned by statements made by Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Strang, while referencing a release from the World Health Organization (WHO). “Quite simply, smoking and vaping may put you at greater risk,” says Dr. Strang. “It certainly will be impacting your health and also putting you at increased risk for severe illness and poor outcomes.”

The CVA recognizes the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on public health and that our medical officials have been stretched past capacity. Our organization commends the extraordinary efforts our medical community has and continues to put forth during this pandemic. Dr. Strang’s statements are well intentioned but his comments surrounding vaping are not validated by any studies or research. The WHO has not found any link between vaping and COVID-19. Misleading statements from such a trusted medical authority are especially concerning; considering Dr. Strang’s influence it is paramount that all his statements be based on medical research. The WHO in their release never references vaping, but rather the impacts that smoking, not vaping, can have on an individual that contracts COVID-19.

Although it is a valid concern that individuals with lung vulnerabilities could be more at risk for symptom severity if infected, the link between vaping and severity of COVID-19 symptoms exists because most vapers are reformed smokers. Dr. Caitlyn Notley, a researcher specializing in addiction studies with a focus on vaping and smoking, has stated that “there is no evidence that vaping increases the risk of infection or progression to severe conditions of COVID-19. However, vapers with a long previous smoking history could exhibit conditions seen in vulnerable patients. However, this would not be an effect of vaping but of previous smoking. Since completely switching from smoking to vaping improves cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, smokers who switch to vaping might be expected to have a better prognosis if infected by COVID-19. E-cigarettes are the most popular consumer option for stop smoking support, and they are effective. People should be encouraged to switch to vaping rather than continuing to smoke tobacco.”

“The unfortunate reality is that almost 6 million Canadians still smoke and require access to vape products to significantly reduce their harm. Less than 3% of smokers are able to abstain from smoking without the use of cessation aids and the research has proven that e-cigarettes are twice as effective as any other cessation method. Advising nicotine dependant individuals to ‘just quit’ is not realistic,” said Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA. “Dr. Strang’s statements insinuate that smoking and vaping cause equal harm and vulnerability. This has been proven time and time again to be inaccurate; vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking,” concluded Tempest.

Public Health England has concluded for the sixth consecutive year that vapour products are at least 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco. Given that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and smokers are a vulnerable group, it is imperative that the medical community embraces all harm reduction options. Now, more than ever, public health and safety depend on prudent recommendations from our medical experts. The idea that smokers can ‘just quit’ is idealistic and unfounded. The CVA will continue to advocate for harm reduction and will encourage those throughout our medical community to do the same. It is crucial that we as a society embrace all harm reduction methods available in order to protect vulnerable groups during this unprecedented time.

Darryl Tempest
The Canadian Vaping Association

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