Coronavirus and Lung Health: NJ Quitline 1-866 NJ STOPS (657-8677) · TobaccoFreeNJ.com · Effects of Marijuana and Nicotine
A panel of health experts — including Dr. Patrice Harris, immediate past president of the American Medical Association; Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; Dr. Kelly Henning, public health program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies; and Dr. Nora Volkow, director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health — discussed Tobacco Use and Covid-19: Health Inequities, and how vital it is to reduce tobacco use in the age of coronavirus.
Although teens are a comparatively low-risk group for the novel coronavirus, their tobacco use rates are the highest they’ve been in nearly 20 years because of the rise of e-cigarettes, some of which can deliver very high doses of nicotine. “One of the greatest successes we’ve seen has been the [anti-]tobacco campaign that was targeted toward teenagers [that] led them to realize the manipulation of media in order to make them actually consume cigarettes,” said Dr. Volkow.
Dr. Henning thinks the best way to spread the message is to put anti-vaping campaigns in teens’ hands: “The question is, how do we make vaping uncool?” she said. “How do we get teens to really propel that message among their peer groups?”
Although there needs to be more research on the connection between smoking, vaping, and Covid-19, there’s growing evidence that smoking increases the risk of serious complications from the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that “smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with Covid-19, compared to non-smokers.” Evidence is emerging that vaping can also harm lung health, raising concerns that it, too, could worsen Covid-19.
Also, the science and health communities need more complete data on Covid-19 patients. “It would be great to have more community-based research done, more broad-based demographic information,” said Henning. “There’s a real lack of smoking status [figures about Covid patients].”
Reducing smoking rates comes down to simple math: Lower the number of people starting, and increase the number quitting. With political will — something hard to find at the federal level but that’s gaining traction at state and local levels — it’s possible to do both.