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E-Cig and Vape Companies Cashing in on COVID-19

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Some e-cigarette and vaping companies are using the corona virus as a marketing tool and “vape fear mongering” issue –despite health concerns.

Santa Clara, CAVaping and e-cigarette companies are using the corona virus crisis as a sales tool, despite warnings from health officials that vape and e-cigarette users might be at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19. And an attorney general accuses the FDA of vape fear mongering.

COVID-19 Sales Tactics

Particularly insidious is a sales tactic employed by Dino Baccari, owner of White Horse Vapor. He said that, because sales increased during the coronavirus crisis, including “a regular flow of health-care workers and first-responders”, store-branded cars would “cruise areas” near hospitals looking for these customers to hand out e-cigs for a nominal $1 charge. But just 90 minutes after being interviewed by a Providence Journal reporter, Baccari called off the promotion “for safety reasons.”

The Los Angeles Times called out an online shop for advertising the following: Running low on surgical masks during the pandemic? You can get two for free by ordering a Moti Piin, a battery-powered vaping pen.

Or how about buying sleek cartridges from e-cigarette brand Smok, and earn chances to win disposable gloves and up to 10,000 masks? Another online shop advertises “COVID19 RELIEF EFFORT” by offering two-for-one e-liquid vials. And bonus: you can get 19 percent off nicotine e-juices by entering the code COVID-19 at yet another online outlet.

Along with pandemic-themed discounts, both tobacco and vaping companies are brazenly offering free protective gear and doorstep deliveries. Some have even gone so far as to start charitable campaigns and donate ventilators.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the LA Times that  “It’s as if they don’t realize they’re in the business of destroying lungs…It makes the word ‘hypocrisy’ feel feeble.”

Vape Fear Mongering – A “Regrettable Episode”

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, in a letter to the federal government’s top anti-tobacco administrator, wrote that the latest spat of vape fear mongering is a “regrettable episode” and FDA officials are wrong. Miller pointed his finger at a Bloomberg article that said vaping and smoking could exacerbate COVID-19.

According to the FDA, “ Vaping may leave users with underlying health conditions at higher risk of serious complications if they contract the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus…People with underlying health issues, such as heart or lung problems, may have increased risk for serious complications from Covid-19... This includes people who smoke and/or vape tobacco or nicotine-containing products.”

Can Vaping increase the Risk of COVID-19?

ABC News reported that conventional cigarette smokers are likely to have more serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Because vaping can also cause dangerous lung and respiratory problems, health experts say it “makes sense that the habit could aggravate the symptoms of COVID-19, although they will need longer-term studies to know for sure”. It also makes sense not to wait for such studies. Doctors say the best time to stop smoking and vaping is now.

Juul E-Cigarettes

After the e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc. was told to stop selling fruit- and candy-flavored products and one year later Congress banned the sale of all tobacco and e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 21, the company was able to “transition sales of other flavors easily by simply swapping which flavors were being displayed in stores,” said scientist Alex Liber, who led a recent study by the American Cancer Society and published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study showed a “glaring shortcoming in allowing e-cigarette companies largely to self-regulate in lieu of coordinated federal regulations.”

Next up, Juul received in 2018 a $12.8 billion investment by Altria Group Inc, the Marlboro cigarette manufacturer. Ironically, Howard Willard, the chief executive of Altria, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March. Altria has written down the value of its $12.8 billion investment in Juul by about $8.6 billion due to bans on e-cigarettes following a surge in teenage vaping and reported health-linked concerns, reported Reuters last week.

JUUL told ABC News that it is working closely with regulators, attorneys, public health officials and other stakeholders to combat underage use of its products and "will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society.”


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