KEY POINTS

  • FDA admits there is no evidence to say vaping increases COVID-19 chance
  • FDA had said vapers and smokers might be at higher risk of infection
  • Researching is lacking on coronavirus and vaping

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has modified its stance on COVID-19 and vaping, saying it was not known whether e-cigarette use can increase the risk of infection. The regulator said last month vapers and smokers with underlying health conditions might be at a higher risk of coronavirus. It made the claim without data to support it.

“E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of COVID-19 is not known,” the agency said Wednesday in an emailed response to a question from Bloomberg News.

Its description of cigarettes’ risks also differed from its earlier statements. “Cigarette smoking causes heart and lung diseases, suppresses the immune system, and increases the risk of respiratory infections,” FDA spokeswoman Alison Hunt said. “People who smoke cigarettes may be at increased risk from COVID-19, and may have worse outcomes from COVID-19.” 

Bloomberg News last month quoted a separate long-time FDA spokesman as saying that vapers and smokers with underlying health conditions might be at higher risk from complications.

In response, Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller and 14 others fired off a letter to the FDA March 31 suggesting it stick to facts.

" We do not believe the FDA has any basis for making recommendations about smoking and vaping that are specific to COVID-19 at this time," the letter read. "At this point, therefore, we believe that advice to smokers should be consistent with the longstanding public health imperative to quit smoking using whatever methods work, and that includes by switching to vaping or other low-risk non-combustible nicotine products."

There is no “credible evidence” that smokers or nicotine vapers, as oppossed to THC vapers, are more likely to be infected with coronavirus, Charles Gardner, a scientist with Foundation for a Smoke Free World, wrote in a blog Tuesday.

Evidence does not link vaping to COVID-19 hospitalization or complications, the scientist said. He said there is evidence smokers who switch to nicotine vaping have fewer colds, flu and cold-like symptoms. “All three possibilities should be studies during this pandemic,” he said.