Op-Ed: COVID-19 increases need to protect children from dangers of tobacco vaping addiction

May 05, 2020

Sacramento Bee
Guest Op-Ed
By Lindsey Freitas

In early April, the attorney general of Massachusetts partnered with healthcare professionals to release a health advisory warning to residents. It said that smoking and vaping could put them in the high-risk category for needing “hospitalization and advanced life support to survive” COVID-19.

Californians deserve the same warning from their public health officials.

As a first step, leading health organizations, along with state Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), sent a letter last month to California public health officials urging them to monitor tobacco use among the victims of COVID-19. Tracking this data could empower Californians to make healthy and potentially life-saving choices for themselves and their families.

During one of his daily briefings on California’s coronavirus crisis response, Gov. Gavin Newsom said: “We will look back at these moments as a critical decision.” Let’s not look back and wonder why we didn’t do more to protect our kids.

Long before this novel coronavirus arrived, California youth were being sentenced to a lifetime of addiction as the skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes swept the nation. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of young people who use e-cigarettes spiked by an alarming 135 percent nationwide, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. With candy-flavored products like “Mango Ice,” “Milkshake” and “Blueberry Muffin,” tobacco companies have hooked our children on nicotine, now putting them at greater risk in the face of a global pandemic.