In stunning reversal, FDA admits no evidence that vaping increases COVID-19 risks
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is backtracking on its former claims that vaping increases the risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus – while warning that smoking is still a major concern. Last month, the agency said that vapers and smokers with underlying health conditions might be at higher risks for complications. The mainstream media instantly picked up the story and ran with it.
Within days, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill began issuing calls for the FDA to implement an immediate nationwide ban on the sales of all vapor products while conveniently failing to make similar demands for combustible tobacco cigarettes. On the Saturday before the Easter holiday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) took to a local news station servicing his home state of Connecticut to urge the FDA to act swiftly and aggressively. In the televised interview, he referred to vaping as “deadly” at least three times without ever mentioning smoking.
On April 1, fellow democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois also tried to politicize the coronavirus outbreak when he wrote a letter FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn demanding a four-month reprieve on vaping sales. The FDA is in the midst of asking the courts for a four-month extension on the controversial PMTA process for manufacturers of vapor products, and Krishnamoorthi believed that all sales should be suspended until further notice. Over the weekend, the FDA denied the congressman’s request.
Now per an email conversation with Bloomberg News journalists, the FDA is reversing its previous stance on COVID-19 and vaping altogether. And unlike Blumenthal and Krishnamoorthi, FDA officials make a very clear distinction between smoking and vaping in regard to coronavirus health risks.
"E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of COVID-19 is not known," FDA spokeswoman Alison Hunt said. “Cigarette smoking causes heart and lung diseases, suppresses the immune system, and increases the risk of respiratory infections…People who smoke cigarettes may be at increased risk from Covid-19 and may have worse outcomes from Covid-19.”
Conley’s reaction to FDA reversal on vaping and COVID-19
The updated stance might appear to indicate a softening of the FDA’s anti-vaping rhetoric that has remained so consistent in recent years. When the “vaping-related” EVALI outbreak was occurring last summer and into the winter of 2020, the FDA repeatedly tried to blame conventional, nicotine-based vapor products for the mysterious disorder.
It would eventually take several months for the FDA to admit their miscalculations. Contraband THC-enhance cartridges – not nicotine vapes – were to blame for the surge in lung injuries.
But some members of the vaping advocacy community are not impressed with the FDA’s most recent reversal on the coronavirus. "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," American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley 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."
Still, even though the FDA seems all-too-quick to jump to negative conclusions about vaping whenever a health crisis emerges, it’s abrupt reversal on the issue of COVID-19 may be a very good sign for overall public health in both the short- and long-term. Clearly, the growing number of politicians in Washington DC who are aggressively pushing for a federal vaping ban were never going to stop, and the FDA has much bigger fish to fry at the moment.
In coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA is diligently trying to develop a vaccine and lifesaving treatments for coronavirus patients. The agency is also investigating numerous applications from suppliers of medical supplies requesting FDA approval for more efficient testing equipment. Reviving the non-existent vaping “epidemic” would be political suicide for both the FDA, the CDC, and especially the Trump Administration.
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