WASHINGTON – Public health experts fear the COVID-19 crisis is diverting attention from another ongoing health crisis – youth vaping.
A new CDC study shows that while the number of teens reporting using e-cigarettes dropped after an announced federal ban earlier this year, overall nearly 4 million teens continue vaping – and are doing it more often than last year.
The federal data released Wednesday show youth vaping has declined, but more than 3.6 million American middle and high school students are still vaping.
Lawmakers say the Trump administration needs to continue its effort to end youth vaping especially as the pandemic rages on.
“My heart sinks because of this,” said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos.
Galiatsatos, who works with the American Lung Association, says he’s concerned the coronavirus crisis is making teen vaping more dangerous.
“It wasn’t surprising when I saw these patients in the intensive care units fighting for their lives,” he said.
A new Stanford University study shows teens who vape are seven times more likely to contract the virus.
“Every day we delay, we’re just allowing more and more kids more youth to become addicted to these products,” Galiatsatos said.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams says the pandemic underscores the need to get the crisis under control.
“I think it’s important that we remember this is still a problem for youth,” Adams said. “This (coronavirus) epidemic has actually increased mental health issues anxiety and depression which increases people’s desire to self medicate.”
Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin says the Food and Drug Administration must do more.
“It’s now an addiction that can affect the quality of your lungs at a time where we’re so vulnerable to this COVID19,” Durbin said.
But Mike Hogan with vaping lobby firm Smoke Free Alternatives denies vaping contributes to the virus.
“I don’t think there’s any scientific foundation for what they’re saying,” Hogan said, warning that harsh federal regulations will backfire.
“We’re probably going to end up handing over this harm reduction industry back to big tobacco who has no incentive to help people stop smoking,” Hogan said.
So far the FDA is not reporting a link between COVID-19 and vaping.
Wednesday marks the final deadline for e-cigarette manufacturers to get FDA approval to keep their products on the shelves. Those items that miss the deadline will be deemed unsafe and illegal.