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Health Care

Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em (and Want a COVID Shot)

(fuzznails/Getty Images)

Several states and the Centers for Disease Control say that smokers should get priority access to COVID vaccinations because smokers are at greater risk of developing severe illness and dying from the disease.

This raises an interesting question: What is the definition of a “smoker”?

The state of North Carolina says that, as of March 24, any adult who has smoked 100 cigarettes in his lifetime is eligible for a COVID shot.

If you live in Virginia, smokers aged 16 to 64 are currently eligible to receive a vaccine, but it doesn’t matter how many cigarettes you’ve smoked in your lifetime. If you say you’re a smoker, you qualify for a shot — no questions asked.

Virginia includes smoking in the list of medical conditions that places one at increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19, but Virginia has not defined ‘smoking,’” Dena Potter, spokesperson for the state’s Vaccinate Virginia program, tells me in an email. Potter also clarified that Virginia does not distinguish between cigarette smokers and those who prefer to smoke pipes or cigars.

I posed this question to the Virginia Department of Health on behalf of my, um, friend who lives in Virginia and smokes an occasional cigar at weddings and other special occasions.

My friend currently does not plan on taking advantage of this loophole, but he isn’t making any promises.


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