Smokers and vapers are not only at increased risk of more serious complications from COVID-19; they are less likely to receive an insufficient fan.
“Anything that compromises your lung capacity is not wise yet,” said Lee.
“By quitting smoking, you’re probably going to increase your chances of being one of the people who get a fan, that’s for sure. I don’t think we’ve ever been in this situation where we have to make such brutal decisions, ”as doctors in Italy and New York did, said Lee.
“There will be choices across the board if we don’t flatten the curve. It’s about who gets the best out of it, “said Lee after receiving help from missing equipment.
Age, medical history and other factors come into play in determining who receives what care. If a person’s lungs are not at full capacity due to smoking or vaping, they can be eliminated in the worst-case scenario, said Lee.
There are concerns about the association between COVID-19 and tobacco use. “There is new evidence that links these two things,” said Lee, suggesting that smokers and vapers will have more serious COVID-19 disease. “They could have compromised lung capacity, which would have a more serious impact. This means that they are less likely to have a mild case of illness. “
The B.C. Lung Association cites studies in China showing that Chinese patients, who contracted COVID-19 and have a history of smoking, were 14 times more likely to progress and / or die. Overall, smokers are more likely to get bacterial or viral infections, according to the association.
Of course, although the Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, have tobacco and vapor product licenses and sales taxes, sales persist during the deadly respiratory disease pandemic.
Lee said that while it may seem counterproductive to continue selling cigarettes and sprays, nicotine addiction and withdrawal can be “cruel.”
So, said Lee, banning the sale of cigarettes and vaporizers is not the way to go. Smokers need positive support from society and many will get products on the black market.
“And there are all kinds of risks to it,” added Lee.
As such, the government must step up its game to help people stop inhaling these products during the pandemic, said Lee.
“People who are currently smoking or vaping should be encouraged to stop now to give their lungs the best chance of fighting this coronavirus if infected. If the government wants to be helpful, increasing access to nicotine replacement therapy to help people quit smoking is a much better solution. It would also help flatten the curve by reducing the likelihood that smokers and vapers will become seriously ill and have to rely on our overburdened health care system, “said Lee.
The BC Department of Health administers or contributes to the BC Smoking Cessation Program, which covers 100% of the cost of nicotine replacement therapy products, including nicotine gum, lozenges, patches and specific inhalers the cost of certain prescription drugs to quit smoking.
However, there are program limits. Each calendar year, B.C. eligible residents can receive only one continuous treatment for up to 12 weeks. And only low-income earners are eligible for discounted prescription drugs. There is also a tedious process of visiting a doctor for referral and enrollment in the program.
“So, of course, expand cessation support to get this message out – the link between COVID and smoking and vaping,” said Lee. “There are also children who are vaping and they are very dependent. “
When asked if the provincial government intended to expand the cessation program, Glacier Media received no response.
Last November, Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced new regulations limiting nicotine in pods to 20 mg / ml as well as limits on product advertisements. He also raised tax rates on tobacco and steam effective January 1 and a new tax on heated tobacco was slated for April 1.
However, this new tax has been suspended for fear that businesses will be adversely affected.
“The scheduled date of April 1, 2020, entry into force of this technical measure [tax] has been delayed because its implementation requires efforts on the part of businesses, including inventory counting, at a time when many businesses are feeling the effects of COVID-19, “said a ministry spokesperson.
Lee said it was the wrong decision, stressing that the main goal should be to help people quit smoking and vaping.
Lee has been studying tobacco control for 25 years. His research focuses on the impacts of globalization on communicable and non-communicable diseases, including tobacco-related diseases, and the implications for strengthening global governance. She is currently seeking quarantine responses worldwide to COVID-19.
“My two worlds come together,” she said.
Lee is a member of the Faculty of Public Health at the Royal College of Physicians and a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, based on his SFU profile.