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How many cigarettes do you need to have smoked to qualify for an early vaccine? It’s an oddly specific number

Smoke in college for a few months? You might be good to go.


Stacey Ritzen


Posted on Mar 9, 2021   Updated on Mar 9, 2021, 3:57 pm CST

From our friends at Nautilus:

Vaccine rollouts are now approaching phase 1C in many parts of the U.S. This group includes people between the ages of 65-74, high-risk individuals between the ages of 16-64, and some essential workers. And although state and local guidelines vary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists smokers among the most high-risk individuals. Now, if you spent only a short amount of time in your life smoking cigarettes, you might get an early COVID vaccine in North Carolina. 

The recommendation came after a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine in January 2021 found that people who currently smoke or who have smoked in the past are more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19—including hospitalization and death—than non-smokers.

However, there has been some confusion about what constitutes a smoker. North Carolina, in particular, raised eyebrows after listing criteria as those who have smoked “at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.” The state recently announced that residents included in the Group 4 subset of high-risk medical conditions would be eligible for the vaccine starting March 24.

The announcement has been met with no shortage of skepticism, as many people criticized the oddly specific number of cigarettes that one would need to have smoked to get bumped up in line for the COVID vaccine.

Read the rest of the Nautilus story here.

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*First Published: Mar 9, 2021, 3:56 pm CST