Coronavirus: New York doctors urge Cuomo to ban all tobacco products as smokers may be more vulnerable
'Mounting evidence demonstrates the link between tobacco use and increased risk for progressive COVID-19'
New York doctors are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban tobacco products in a bid to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor has been requested by the New York State Academy of Family Physicians (NYSAFP) to issue an executive order aimed at prohibiting the sale of all tobacco products, New York Daily News reports.
Smokers have a higher susceptibility of contracting the novel coronavirus, according to a study from China. Researchers also found that tobacco users are "14 times as likely to have COVID-19 progression."
Now, the New York group is pointing to the same study to support their case.
"As our state and country struggle to respond to the rapidly evolving and escalating COVID-19 pandemic affecting our residents and straining our healthcare system, mounting evidence demonstrates the link between tobacco use and increased risk for progressive COVID-19," New York State Academy of Family Physicians president Dr Barbara Keber said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had taken measures to reduce vaping in New York prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Using the hashtag #NoVapeNY, Cuomo announced last month that those who intended to quit vaping could join a texting program.
"It wasn't that long ago that we were dealing with a separate respiratory crisis that was specifically tied to vaping products," Dr Jason Matuszak, the group's president-elect, told WRGB.
Dr Jason Matuszak was referring to the wave of vape-related illnesses that sickened 2,807 people and claimed the lives of at least 68 across 29 states and the District of Columbia.
A medical investigation later found the key culprit to be vitamin E acetate, a vitamin-E-derived oil that was found in almost all the cannabis vaping devices used by patients.
It was found the compound stuck to the lung tissue and caused chemical-like burns similar to those sustained by soldiers during mustard gas attacks.
According to Dr Jason Matuszak, vapers with such serious lung damage would have no option but to be on ventilators if they contracted the coronavirus.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on March 24 that New York currently has 7,000 ventilators but needs a staggering 30,000 at the moment.
"If we have 14 times fewer people needing ventilators, that's a big difference," Dr Jason Matuszak told WRGB. "Now all of a sudden our ventilators that we have in supply might be enough to help the vast majority of our population get through this really tough time."
But such a stringent ban would force people to buy tobacco products on the black market, the New York State Vapor Association has argued.
"I think it's responsible to not cause a separate panic by banning tobacco products," the group's vice president, Andrew Osborne, told WRGB. "I do understand the need to recommend people not to use combustible tobacco, especially during this point, but it's very disingenuous if they're going to try and take life-saving vapor products away from hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who need them to stay smoke-free."