Written by Roberto Sussman1 and Carmen Escrig2
1Institute for Nuclear Sciences, National University of México UNAM. Physics PhD. Director of Pro-Vapeo México AC
2Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. Biology PhD specialized in Virology. Coordinator of the Medical Platform for Tobacco Harm Reduction in Spain.
PURPOSE The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic provides fertile ground for spreading misinformation on vaping. Vapers must be equipped with solid information and data to counterargue.
ON SMOKING. The relation between smoking and the progression to severe conditions of COVID-19 is still uncertain, though identified vulnerability conditions for this progression (cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes) in mostly senior patients are strongly correlated with long term harms from smoking.
ON VAPING. There is no evidence that vaping (intrinsically) increases the risk of infection or progression to severe condition of COVID-19. When evaluating risks on vapers it is necessary to consider that most are ex-smokers or still smokers. Vapers with a long previous smoking history could exhibit conditions seen in vulnerable patients. However, this would not be an effect of vaping but of previous smoking. Since completely switching from smoking to vaping improves cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, smokers who switch to vaping are expected to have a better prognosis if infected by SARS-CoV-2
ON PROPYLENE GLYCOL (PG) AS DISINFECTANT. Because of its hygroscopic nature PG vapor (not droplets) can act as environmental disinfectant wiping out pathogens under specific physical conditions. However, there is no evidence on whether this effect will work on SARS-CoV-2 and in the context of vaping.
ON ENVIRONMENTAL VAPOR. While there are no reported and verified cases of contagion, the saliva droplets carrying SARS-CoV-2 virus are much heavier than the rapidly moving volatile droplets of exhaled vapor. Therefore, vapor exhaled by an infected vaper is likely to spread as much viruses as in normal respiration in the personal breathing zone, far less and far closer than spreading by sneezing or coughing.
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“As expected, reports of people being hospitalized due to a “mystery lung disease” continue to grow. The non-communicable lung disease that is increasingly being linked to products such as K2/Spice and/or adulterated THC cartridges–sold by underground sellers–is now under investigation in 22 states including CA, CT, FL, IL, IN, IA, MN, MI, NC, NJ, NM, NY, PA, TX, UT, WI, and as of Thursday, Colorado has its first confirmed case.
As of Friday morning, one death in Illinois is being attributed to an unknown substance that people are consuming by way of vaping. CASAA extends our condolences to the family and share in everyone’s disappointment in knowing that this tragic death could have been prevented if more compassionate policies were in place.
In last week’s Heads Up Round Up we briefly highlighted the concern that state and federal drug policy is complicating diagnosis, patient care, and accurate reporting about these clusters of lung disease. But in the wake of these reported illnesses, almost all of the usual anti-tobacco campaigners are using this event to elevate their cries for an all-out ban on nicotine vaping products–especially e-liquids sold in flavors other than tobacco.
Anti-tobacco campaigners are advocating for policies that will do absolutely nothing to prevent events like this in the future. Rather, it is more likely that heavy regulation–even if it isn’t total prohibition–will lead to more instances of people being harmed by fake pot, adulterated THC, or poorly manufactured nicotine products sold on an unregulated, illicit market. According to an article on TechCrunch, the FDA is still uncertain if the products being used even fall under the agency’s regulatory authority.
CASAA is reaffirming our advice to consumers that vapor products (THC and nicotine) should be purchased from reputable sources and not “on the street.” We also note that the terminology used to discuss this issue can benefit from including a clear distinction between nicotine vaping, THC/cannabis vaping, and synthetic cannabinoid vaping (k2/spice). Simply reporting that a mysterious lung disease is generally attributable to “vaping” will have harmful unintended consequences such as sending people back to combustible tobacco or discouraging them from making the switch at all.”
Alex Clark, CEO