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April 30, 2020
April has been a crazy month, just generally with the pandemic and everything going on, but it's been even crazier in the vape community. Competing (evidence-free) claims that vaping is somehow linked to Covid-19 risk and research that seems to indicate that nicotine may play a protective role in Covid have gained a lot of attention around the world. So much so that the French government has limited sales of nicotine patches to in-person purchases and a one month supply. It is far too early to make predictions (and we don't want to follow the anti-vape crowd in making claims ahead of the evidence) but we've included the multitude of articles that discuss what's going on. We also run down some of the best articles on vaping from April, as always with excerpts and links for your reading convenience.
Smokers seem less likely than non-smokers to fall ill with covid-19, The Economist
“The ratios of smokers to non-smokers in earlier tallies at hospitals in America, China and elsewhere in France varied. But all revealed habitual smokers to be significantly underrepresented among those requiring hospital treatment for the illness.”
Anti-Vaping Zealots Find Opportunity in the Pandemic, Helen Redmond, Filter
“This is one of the most powerful tactics anti-vaping activists deploy; link vaping to a life-threatening illness. It doesn’t matter if there is no evidence.”
Inside Michigan’s Fight for Safe, Legal Vapes, Althea Legaspi, Rolling Stone
“For nicotine vape producers, the news that vaping-related illnesses were strongly linked to black-market THC products should’ve been a relief, but the public’s lack of awareness of the differences between the two had a negative impact.”
What We Know—and Still Need to Learn—About Coronavirus and Nicotine, Sally Satel, The Dispatch
“In response to intriguing data from French scientists showing that smokers are strongly underrepresented among patients with COVID-19 symptoms, French citizens have started to apply nicotine patches to their upper arms.”
Editorial: Nicotine and SARS-CoV-2: COVID-19 may be a disease of the nicotinic cholinergic system, Konstantinos Farsalinos, Raymond Niaura, Jacques Le Houezec, Anastasia Barbouni, AristidisTsatsakis, Dimitrios Kouretas, Apostolos Vantarakis, Konstantinos Poulas
“Based on this hypothesis, COVID-19 appears to eventually become a disease of the nicotinic cholinergic system. Nicotine could maintain or restore the function of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory system and thus control the release and activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines.”
From Ebola to Covid-19. Is all nicotine bad nicotine? An epidemiologist’s reflections, Ian Sliney, Drug Science
“But who is going to do this? That’s a bit of a play on words too because in Geneva, the public health powers (especially the WHO) are as political as they are in Washington. Are they ever going to support an epidemiologist who wants to find out if vaping may be protective against SARS COV-2?”
Why Welsh doctors claim nicotine patches could be used for treating coronavirus, Mark Smith, Wales Online
Leading Welsh doctors claim nicotine patches could offer hope of a possible treatment for coronavirus. Jonathan Davies, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant, said the "powerful" drug has the potential to block the virus from entering cells.
Scientists must discover why so few coronavirus patients are smokers, Guy Bentley, Washington Examiner
“As with all aspects of the pandemic, we desperately need more and better data. But we shouldn't start from the premise that nicotine's relationship with COVID-19 is a question of just how much we hate Philip Morris.”
Does Smoking Make COVID-19 Worse? Better? Here’s What We Actually Know., Jacob Grier, Slate
“Investigations into nicotine’s effects on the virus may well come to nothing. However, we also shouldn’t allow demonization of the drug to prevent us from being open to potentially useful discoveries.”
FDA Tells Uwell to Remove the Caliburn from the Market, Jim McDonald, Vaping 360
“The FDA announced Monday a new round of warning letters to vaping manufacturers and retailers, demanding that some vaping products be removed from the market. Most of the items named are niche products, but one is a very popular refillable pod vape, the Uwell Caliburn.”
Enforcement Actions Against Illegally Marketed Tobacco Products, FDA
“Under this policy, companies that do not cease manufacture, distribution and sale of these unauthorized tobacco products risk FDA taking regulatory action, ranging from warning letters to injunction, seizure, and/or civil money penalty actions.”
Why Are Smokers Being Hospitalized Less Often From Coronavirus? Alex Norcia, Vice
“The distinction between nicotine and tobacco—which are often lumped together and demonized—is one emphasized by tobacco control experts focused on harm reduction.”
Vaping in the New World of COVID-19, Mark Tyndall, VITA
“In a time when we have so few tools to manage the clinical course of COVID-19 infection, reducing exposure to cigarettes at a population level should be a priority. Vaping is the most successful tool that we currently have to get people away from smoking cigarettes.”
Nicotine fix: Social media peeved by WHO's anti-smoking campaign, Social Desk, The Express Tribune Pakistan
“The WHO is expected to provide leadership in coordinating the global effort against the outbreak and countering the spread of false information, instead of adding to the confusion.”
Coronavirus: France bans online sales of nicotine products, BBC News
“The new rules cover products like nicotine gum and patches, designed to help people stop smoking. Last week, data from a Paris hospital indicated that smokers were statistically less likely to be admitted for treatment for Covid-19.”
Ethan Nadelmann on Global Health Perspectives with Derek Yach, podcast on Soundcloud
"For me what became apparent was that there was a core principle involved here & that core principle was that nobody but nobody deserves to be punished or discriminated against or amongst based solely upon the things we choose to put into our body."
COVID-19 Counterproductive Calls for Prohibition, Joseph Magero, Medium
“Governments in Africa need to acknowledge that punitive enforcement has proven expensive and counterproductive. They need to reorient towards pragmatic health and harm reduction approaches that have been shown to minimize effects, especially in these resource-limited coronavirus times.”
Will Nicotine Be a Game Changer for COVID19 Patients? Jim McDonald, Vaping 360
“Does nicotine protect users from contracting the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, or reduce its impact once it’s in the body? These are serious questions—and highly controversial ones—and we may have solid answers soon.”
Australian and New Zealand medical specialists announce support for vaping, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association
“The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is to be commended for updating its previously cautious policy to reflect the growing evidence that vaping is an effective quitting aid and is far safer than smoking.”
The Double-edged Sword of Oppositional Category Positioning: A Study of the U.S. E-cigarette Category, 2007–2017, Greta Hsu and Stine Grodal, Sage Journals
“Researchers theorize that stigma arises when stakeholders perceive an organization’s features, such as routines, outputs, or customers, as deviating from collective standards of appropriate values and behavior.”
Risk And Reason: Australia, England, And The US E-Cigarette Crisis Of 2019, Ronald “Bayer, Amy Fairchild, Virginia Berridge, Wayme Hall, Coral Gartner, Health Affairs Blog
The summer of 2019 witnessed a dramatic amplification of the controversy in the United States over the potential threat to the nation’s youth posed by e-cigarettes.”
COVI19, Smoking and Vaping: More Research Needed, Charles Gardner, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
“Educated consumers are often better informed about the products they use than self-professed ‘experts’ who have fixed views about those products. Ultimately, we all benefit when public health guidance is based firmly on evidence.”
Anti-Vaping Efforts May Have Made Coronavirus Crisis Worse, Experts Say, Michael Graham, Inside Sources
“What people need to understand is that smoking is such an addictive behavior, and it’s not just the nicotine. It’s the psychology as well. In the middle of a pandemic when people are under so much stress, asking these people to just quit cold turkey is ridiculous,” Siegel said.
Covid-19 is the biggest global health threat in recent history, so why is WHO lecturing us on lifestyle choices, Jo Furnival, Malay Mail
“Covid-19 is the greatest threat to global health in recent history, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to lecture us on our lifestyle choices, whether it’s eating, drinking, vaping or smoking.”
Ban on cigarettes 'undermines lockdown', Liam Ngobeni, Pretoria News
“The ban is doing little to reduce the movement of people. Instead, it achieves quite the opposite: encouraging South Africa’s 11 million smokers to travel further to find cigarettes in the black market, there is daily evidence of increased activity.”
WHO Values Lines of Text Over Saving Lives, Dick Puddlecoat Blogspt
“For those of us who have been aware of how unaccountable and out of control they are for quite a while, it's not surprising that they have been found wanting when it comes to the only thing we all would like them to do very well.”
FDA Admits There's Actually No Evidence Vaping Makes COVID-19 Worse, Alex Norica, Vice
"The FDA deserves no applause for eventually arriving at the right public stance, which is that there is no evidence linking the use of nicotine vaping products to COVID-19 infection or severity," Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, told VICE. "It was wholly irresponsible for the FDA to add fuel to the fire several weeks ago by commenting on a subject they now admit they know nothing about."
The science is clear: "The evidence is there, these devices are still less damaging alternatives", Crohm
(Translation) “The report said that the proportion of the population who thought e-cigarettes were less harmful than classic cigarettes in 2019 decreased from 45% to 34%.”
The Damage to Vape Shops Deemed “Non-Essential”—And Their Customers, Michael McGrady, Filter
“People who rely on vapes and other reduced-risk nicotine products—overwhelmingly former smokers, or those in the process of switching—face immediate worries over access during the coronavirus lockdown, as well as long-term fears for the survival of the small shops on which many rely.”
FDA Shifts Its Covid-19 Stance on Vaping, Smoking Impact, Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration modified its stance on Covid-19 and vaping, saying it has an unknown effect on the risk of the new coronavirus, while warning that smoking can create worse outcomes. “E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of Covid-19 is not known,” the agency said Wednesday in an emailed response to a question from Bloomberg News.
No, vapers are not at greater risk of catching Covid-19, Satya Marar, Spiked
“This is especially important for poorer smokers, who tend to smoke more and find it more difficult to quit than their wealthier peers. This segment of smokers is particularly vulnerable to the economic damage, social isolation and job losses that are likely to result from the Covid-19 lockdowns.”
The future of ‘public health’, Simon Clark, Taking Liberties
“A big worry is that, on the pretext of ‘protecting’ the public against future pandemics, governments will give public health organisations even greater powers to restrict and change our behaviours.”
Experience of a smoker who tried vaping, Tobacco Harm Reduction Malawi
“When I was smoking, I used to have persistent cough but now it is all gone”. Watch the video to learn from a smoker who tried vaping for three months; he shares his experience and thoughts on electronic cigarettes.
Covid-19 lockdown: 'Cigarette ban dangerous in many ways', Mthuthuzeli Ntseku, Cape Argus News
“Abramjee said because 11 million smokers can't buy cigarettes in the stores they visit for food, they are forced to seek them elsewhere and spread Covid-19 unnecessarily.”
Innovative approaches to support smoking cessation: Twitter chat with Charles A. Gardner PhD, Tobacco Harm Reduction Malawi
“Innovation CAN help reduce smoking dramatically. And I prefer carrots to sticks. Personal choice vs. stigma, taxes & restrictions.” Charles
Federal Obsession with Fake Epidemic Distracted Nation From Pandemic Preparedness, Tristan Justice, The Federalist
“In 2019, the CDC spent almost $1.2 billion on “Chronic disease prevention and health promotion,” allocating $210 million specifically towards funding on anti-tobacco initiatives, including its war on vaping. Funding for “immunization and respiratory diseases” and “public health preparedness,” projects each hovered around $800 million.”
While a Real Epidemic Raged, the Surgeon General Was Spreading Misinformation About Masks and Vaping, Guy Bentley, Reason
“It's troubling to think the surgeon general considered a minority of youth occasionally vaping a public health emergency, but until just a few weeks ago thought the flu was a bigger threat than the coronavirus.”
State budget shakes up e-cig industry, Gino Fanelli, Rochester City Newspaper
“Ribble had many choice words for Cuomo, but his major gripe was that New York was not considering the science behind e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. … “Cuomo is always saying he believes in science and facts, so why not here, why not in this case?” Ribble said.”
NY’s New Flavor Ban Attacks Public Health Amid Public Health Crisis, Helen Redmond, Filter
“Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives (CASAA) are urging New Yorkers to start stockpiling flavored products. The organization also predicts that an illicit market will be created by the prohibition of flavored vapes.”
Vape-shop owner worried customers will go back to cigarettes if shops close due to COVID-19, Morgan Modjeski, CBC News
A family-owned vape shop in Saskatoon is worried about their customers returning to cigarettes if they don't have access to the proper supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can Smoking Protect You Against COVID-19? Carl Phillips, Anti-THR Lies
"It is certainly true that it is an extraordinary claim that requires better evidence than we have. As already noted, the quality of both the Chinese and US data is suspect."
Being A Smoker Or Vaper In The Time of COVID-19, Annie Kleykamp, Filter
In defense of those media sources, scientists and healthcare providers telling you to stop smoking: Smoking cigarettes is one of the most harmful things you can do to your respiratory system. But in defense of a larger argument, there are lots of other things we do to our bodies that are very unhealthy.
Vaping enthusiasts hold virtual rally to voice desire for gubernatorial veto, Jacob Ogles, Florida Politics
The Florida Smoke Free Association saw supporters with home-made placards organize in front of webcams. Most waves signs made on home print paper. Some donned face masks with the message “Veto SB 810.”
FDA Four-Month Delay Not Enough to Save E-Cigarette Industry, Michelle Minton, Competitive Enterprise Institute
The extreme, necessary steps to control the spread of the virus have already taken an economic toll, and there certainly will be a long-term impact on individual businesses and workers. One industry, in particular, will likely fail without swift federal action: e-cigarettes.
New York Bans Flavored Vaping Products With No Public Debate, Jim McDonald, Vaping 360
“The New York State Assembly has passed a bill that will outlaw sales of flavored vaping products (except tobacco), and prohibit online sales of all vaping products.”
Expert reaction to British American Tobacco working on a COVID-19 vaccine, Science Media Centre
“The press release by KBP reports an important milestone for the company, but they are still a long way from making a vaccine.”
Rep. Krishnamoorthi to FDA: Ban All Vapes During PMTA Delay, Jim McDonald, Vaping 360
“Democratic House Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on April 1, asking him to use the agency’s enforcement discretion to “clear the market” of all vaping products.”
See as follow-up to article above:
FDA Rejects Subcommittee’s Call to Temporarily Remove E-Cigarettes Despite Potential Risks to Coronavirus Patients and Jim McDonald’s article in Vaping 360, FDA Rejects Krishnamoorthi’s Call for a Temporary Vape Ban
“Rep. Krishnamoorthi asked the FDA to ban all vaping products during the four-month delay, claiming that e-cigarette use increases a user’s chance of developing serious complications from the coronavirus. The evidence for his belief is paper thin, and based entirely on studies of mice and cultured cells.”
I'm sure that I missed some important and interesting articles in the month of April but this is my best attempt, in the midst of everything going on, to pass along the ones that I personally read. If you note a glaring omission, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care of yourselves and each other. All our best to all of you during these trying times.
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