Preventing Tobacco Use in the Age of COVID-19

By Susan Foster, CPS

In March of 2020, our community was planning the second Wake County Tobacco-Free Community Forum to educate, engage and empower youth, parents/caregivers, and leaders to reduce tobacco’s negative impact. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to put the event on hold. This past year has brought so much change and a heightened focus on how to keep our communities healthy. Now, in 2021, our community is coming back together, online, in a youth-led discussion to continue the conversation about tobacco use prevention, which is now even more important. 

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The Wake County Tobacco-Free Community Forum is going to bring together information and partners to explore prevention efforts and keep those efforts strong in the age of COVID-19. As we have lived more than a year in the midst of the pandemic, we appreciate even more how important it is to keep our lungs and body healthy and ready to fight disease. The medical community has shared their concern that the use of nicotine products can make someone more vulnerable and less likely to fight the COVID-19 virus. 

Right before the virus came into our lives, we were already tracking the emerging cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping nicotine and THC/marijuana-laced products. The Center for Disease Control reports that due to e-cigarette/vaping use, thousands of people in the U.S. have been hospitalized with serious lung injuries, over 64 people had died, and more deaths were under investigation. Therefore, a real concern that vaping or smoking could make someone more vulnerable to the damaging effects of the COVID-19 was becoming clear. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape. Vaping, like smoking, may also harm lung health. Whether it can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection.” (Source).  The results of the 2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use and attitudes in middle and high school students, revealed encouraging news about the alarming rises in teen vaping both of nicotine and marijuana seen in prior years had not increased but had actually leveled off this past year, although use still remains high

This is the time to strengthen the body to fight disease, and a time to strengthen our prevention, policy, and treatment efforts to ensure the best outcome for our youth and our community. The Surgeon General recommends that you “give your lungs the best chance at fighting not only COVID-19 but all respiratory diseases.” To give yourself the best chance now is the time to quit vaping and not to start. The Poe Center is so proud of the work our Youth Empowerment teams have been doing during the pandemic to ensure these important messages are still getting out. 

The Poe Center Youth Empowerment teams include dedicated middle and high school students who care about substance use prevention in their community and work with Poe staff to create awareness and action on the issue. These youth leaders will be guiding the discussion at the annual Wake County Tobacco-Free Community Forum, in partnership with the Wake County Public School System, the Wake County PTA Council, Wake County Human Services, and the American Heart Association. Please join the discussion and be inspired by our youth leaders as we work together for a healthier community. 

Learn more & attend the Forum


2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey

COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders, NIH

 Resources for Quitting Vaping:


By phone: 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)
Quitline Resources during COVID-19

Text to quit vaping:

Text DITCHJULL to 88709

Does your child vape? Learn more:
Fight flavored e-cigarettes resources for parents

 Featured Poe Program: Vaping 101 – Online

Participants: 6th – 12th
Program Length: 60 minutes

Vaping 101 educates students on the latest research about the addictive nature of nicotine and how it impacts their growing brain and body. This program will cover important resources and skills to empower healthy decision-making to navigate this and other substance use issues. Students will be engaged in a  group game format, videos, and discussion. 

Programs can be presented online and are great for youth and family groups to participate from home. Call (919) 231-4006 for details.