PHE responds: Can expelled e-cig vapor transmit COVID-19?

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considered one of the nation’s premier public health organizations along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  In the United Kingdom, that honor is bestowed upon an agency named Public Health England (PHE).  In a recent statement by the latter, PHE officials point out that there is currently “no evidence” suggesting that coronavirus or COVID-19 can be transmitted through expelled e-cig vapor.

Just as in America, some members of the British government are anxious to reopen the economy while others are expressing continued caution thorough self-quarantine, social distancing, and temporary shuttering of non-essential businesses.  As the political debate continues and many British vapers are beginning to run low on supplies, news began surfacing in Europe that smokers and vapers might be more prone to contracting the virus.  Those rumors were running rampant in the United States, as well, until the FDA issued a clarifying statement to Bloomberg News in mid-April 2020. 

"E-cigarette use can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, but whether those exposures increase the risk of COVID-19 is not known…Cigarette smoking causes heart and lung diseases, suppresses the immune system, and increases the risk of respiratory infections…People who smoke cigarettes may be at increased risk from Covid-19 and may have worse outcomes from Covid-19.”

The UK’s Public Health England followed suit by also stating that smoking – not vaping – can increase the risks of contracting the coronavirus.  However, a top British news magazine, the Evening Standard (ES), decided to delve deeper.  In a March 13 report, ES journalists asked the question, “Can e-cigarette clouds pass on Covid-19?” Included in the article is a direct quote from Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs at Public Health England claiming that there is no evidence that this is the case.

 “Public Health England’s 2018 independent evidence review found that to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. There is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be caught from exposure to e-cigarette vapour.”

When Britain’s largest vaping advocacy group heard of Ms. O’Connor’s response, the UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) was quick to commend the PHE for its swift, articulate, and truthful response.  UKVIA officials also commended the PHE’s recent report entitled, Vaping in England: 2020 Evidence Update Summary.  This review discusses in detail the many “false fears” about vaping being continuously reported in mainstream media that are very often preventing active smokers from quitting by switching to vapor products.  It is also the latest of six such reports commissioned by King’s College London that publicly denounces the press for spreading disinformation about vaping through alarmist headlines and unsubstantiated fears.

Related Article:  In stunning reversal, FDA admits no evidence that vaping increases COVID-19 risks

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