Anti-tobacco group decries vape stores claims they are essential businesses

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is protesting the claim from vape shops that they are “essential businesses” during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

According to news reports, the American Vaping Association plans to lobby President Donald Trump to include vape shops in his guidelines on what are essential businesses as states respond to the coronavirus pandemic and shutter businesses during stay-at-home orders. Trump’s guidelines are non-binding, however, and leave states to determine on their own which businesses are essential and which are not.

The Tobacco-Free Kids group pointed to the health concerns over vaping and COVID-19 as a reason to determine the businesses are not essential.

“As we combat the coronavirus, it has never been more important to have healthy lungs. So it is absurd and irresponsible for vape shops to claim they are essential businesses that should be allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 shutdown,” said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “How in the world can vape shops make these claims when over 5 million kids use e-cigarettes, and there is mounting concern among public health experts that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19? Vape shops should not be allowed to exploit a lung health crisis to push products that harm your lungs – especially products often sold in kid-friendly flavors like mint, gummy bear, and cotton candy.”

News reports indicate that the vaping industry is similarly lobbying states and cities across the country to be determined essential. However, recent research indicates that COVID-19 is more serious in people whose lungs are damaged by smoking or vaping.

Scientists say the virus attacks the lungs and weakened lungs up individuals at greater risk of serious consequences from the virus.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said recently, “Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, has said people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, and this “includes people who smoke and/or vape tobacco or nicotine-containing products.”

The anti-tobacco group said vaping attracts kids to tobacco use and makes them more susceptible to the disease.

“It is highly irresponsible to argue that e-cigarettes should be considered essential when they could well put users at greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19, they are addicting our kids, and they have not been proven to help smokers quit,” Myers said. “Rather than protecting vape shops, policymakers should act now to help more smokers, and vapers quit and to prevent kids from ever starting to use tobacco products, including by prohibiting all flavored tobacco products. The coronavirus pandemic should serve as a wakeup call to make our lungs healthier now and for the future.”