Democrats urge CDC to update guidance to encourage colleges, universities go tobacco-free


Democrats on Thursday urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue new guidance to encourage colleges and universities to go tobacco-free in the fall during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield urging him to revamp his agency’s guidelines for institutions of higher learning, citing studies linking tobacco use to COVID-19.

“Based on new evidence demonstrating the link between adolescent tobacco use and COVID-19, we call on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update its guidance to colleges and universities and encourage campuses to go tobacco-free – which would include e-cigarettes – for the fall semester,” they wrote. 

“With the added public health risk posed by the coronavirus, the CDC must act quickly and forcefully,” they said, adding they’d like confirmation by Sept. 9 if the CDC intends to comply with their request. 

The lawmakers specifically cited a study showing that young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who vape are five times as likely as nonvapers to contract COVID-19. Those who both smoke combustible cigarettes and vape are seven times as likely to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Krishnamoorthi and Durbin also noted that younger people have been heavily driving recent spikes in coronavirus cases, a trend they fear will only be exacerbated once students gather again on college campuses.

“With some colleges reopening for on-campus learning in the fall semester, this new study on youth vaping must be taken into account. College-age tobacco users are at heightened risk of contracting the virus, and they will spread it,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Young people are increasingly driving the spread of COVID-19, and that will only increase with reopened college campuses if appropriate public health precautions are not strictly implemented and enforced,” they added. 

Current CDC guidelines for colleges and universities indicate that “Face coverings should be worn as feasible and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.”

The CDC advises institutions should “Recommend and reinforce handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” among other things. There is no mention of tobacco in the guidelines.

Tags Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 pandemic Dick Durbin Electronic cigarettes Raja Krishnamoorthi Smoking Tobacco

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