Youth have an important role to play in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • Aki Nilanga Banadara says:

    Vaping during Covid 19 pandemic-Why young people need to take immediate actions to save their peers from devastating tobacco addiction
    We wholeheartedly endorse the Drs. Mackley and Annans’ timely statement: “Youth have an important role to play in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic”
    Even though, tobacco industry promotes e-cigarette as tools for quitting combustible tobacco, using youth friendly social media aggressively, the evidence does not support their use as part of population-based cessation strategies (1). The position paper of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh highlighted that the physicians and the health care community need to be cautious about the effects of vaping on the young brain and the potential for addicting a new generation (2).
    Meanwhile, adolescents are overwhelmingly exposed to social media messages that favor e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids. Misinformation could danger adolescents overall health and wellbeing. This underlines the need for effective public health engagement with social media and adolescents, youth and the young leaders can support policies targeting adolescent e-cigarette use and the dissemination of evidence-based information using the social media (3, 4, 5).
    Tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases (6, 7). A review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO on 29 April 2020 found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers (8,9).
    Over 4,148,000 people worldwide were known to be infected by the novel corona virus, and the number of deaths had exceeded 284,000. Like the previous viral outbreaks MERS, SARS, COVID-19 attacks the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system.

    There is substantial evidence that smoking or vaping increases people’s vulnerability to severe illness once infected and anything that makes the lungs less healthy will weaken our survival chances against COVID-19. It is utmost important that middle of fight against the Covid 19 pandemic, we need to disseminate this information widely as possible in order to effectively prevent and control COVID-19 (10, 11, 12).
    COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off corona viruses and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death (8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
    In the light of these accumulating evidence, COVID-19 and tobacco use is a critical public health concern and adolescents and young community can get involved and promote comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and social media campaigns. We strongly believe that it is utmost important to seize this opportunity to address adolescents e- cigarette epidemic in Canada and world-wide. We could leverage and tap the school student leaders and train them as peer counselors to redouble our school prevention work. Capacity building in this endeavor is vital and the schools must be supported with sufficient tools and the resources to deal with this epidemic realistically.
    (1). Ghebreyesus TA. Progress in beating the tobacco epidemic. Lancet. 2019; pii: S0140-6736(19)31730-1. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31730-1.
    (2). Mathur A, Dempsey OJ. Electronic cigarettes: a brief update. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2018;48(4):346-351.
    (3). Bandara AN, Mehrnoush V. Electronic cigarettes: adolescent health and wellbeing Lancet. 2018;392(10146):473. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31177-2
    (4). Bandara AN. The consultation of youth in the public health care policy-making process. Can J Public Health. 2016;107(2):e216. Published 2016 Aug 15. doi:10.17269/cjph.107.5446
    (5). Bandara AN. Collaborative opportunities for adolescents and young adults in the public health care decision-making process. Can J Public Health. 2015;106(6):e458. Published 2015 Oct 8. doi:10.17269/cjph.106.5167

    (6). Gotts JE, Jordt SE, McConnell R, Tarran R. What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes? [published correction appears in BMJ. 2019 Oct 15;367:l5980]. BMJ. 2019;366:l5275. Published 2019 Sep 30. doi:10.1136/bmj.l5275
    (7). Stanbrook MB, Drazen JM. Vaping-Induced Lung Disease – A Look Forward by Looking Back. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(17):1649‐1650. doi:10.1056/NEJMe2004876
    (8). WHO statement: Tobacco use and COVID-19- https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/11-05-2020-who-statement-tobacco-use-and-covid-19
    (9). WHO-Smoking does not protect against coronavirus: WHO official -http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-05/09/c_139044018.htm
    (10). WHO-Tobacco and water pipe use increases the risk of suffering from COVID-19- http://www.emro.who.int/tfi/know-the-truth/tobacco-and-waterpipe-users-are-at-increased-risk-of-covid-19-infection.html
    (11). Zhao Q, Meng M, Kumar R, et al. The impact of COPD and smoking history on the severity of Covid-19: A systemic review and meta-analysis [published online ahead of print, 2020 Apr 15]. J Med Virol. 2020;10.1002/jmv.25889. doi:10.1002/jmv.25889
    (12). Emami A, Javanmardi F, Pirbonyeh N, Akbari A. Prevalence of underlying diseases in hospitalized patients with COVID-19:a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Mar 24;8(1):e35. eCollection 2020
    Aki Nilanga Bandara*
    Founding Chair-Global coalition to empower adolescent and youth on harmful therapeutic interventions to prevent combustible tobacco use.
    Instructor, Faculty of Land and Food System, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4 Canada.
    *Author for correspondence: email: nilangabandara527@gmail.com Phone: 778 823 3545
    Ricky Jhauj
    Coordinator-Global coalition to empower adolescent and youth on harmful therapeutic interventions to prevent combustible tobacco use.
    Dr. Vahid Mehrnoush
    Senior Advisor-Global coalition to empower adolescent and youth on harmful therapeutic interventions to prevent combustible tobacco use.
    Section of Trauma, Acute Care, and Global Surgery, Vancouver General Hospital, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, Canada.

    • Aki Nilanga Banadara says:

      Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses published yesterday in the Journal PLOS ONE confirm that the current smokers are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than non-smokers. Further the study results showed that 22% (31/139) of current smokers and 46% (13/28) of ex-smokers had severe complications. The calculated RR showed that current smokers were 1.45 times more likely [95% CI: 1.03–2.04] to have severe complications compared to former and never smokers. Current smokers also had a higher mortality rate of 38.5%.-
      Free full text of this article is available from the appended URL-https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0233147

  • Joseph says:

    Well said Michael, there is also youth abundance behind the cash registers and the stocking of shelves so everyone can continue to buy essentials.

    Perhaps now that migrant workers cannot be brought in to plant / harvest and work the food product facilities, those receiving the $2 grand a month can step into these roles for extra income, learning experience, and production of the necessities.


Michael Mackley


Michael Mackley is a Junior Fellow at the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance and a medical student at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Henry Annan


Henry Annan is paediatrics resident physician at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

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