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The Impact of COVID-19 on ASH

Before COVID-19, ASH already had a flexible work environment where all staff were encouraged to have a work from home set up, complete with our main phone line forwarding to cell phones. So when the world went remote, ASH staff didn’t miss a beat from their established home offices. That seamless transition allowed us to be a leader on virtual program work.

ASH began a webinar series as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020 to bring attention to the co-morbidity between smoking and COVID outcomes. ASH continues the series today to provide a platform for credible partners to share their timely research and resources.

Across 24 webinars and live chats in 2020, ASH hosted 65+ experts with almost 3,000 new public health experts engaging with ASH as a result of the series. Surveys give ASH a high ranking for these webinars, and we continue looking for ways to strengthen the series.

ASH staff virtually presented on several conferences, submitted digital statements for UN meetings, released our usual reports, and had an even bigger impact on fighting the tobacco epidemic in 2020 than we’d initially planned. We significantly increased our written submissions in 2020, which will result in numerous published articles by ASH staff in 2021 in peer-reviewed and well recognized journals.

ASH’s three policy programs have always been intertwined, with the shared, overarching goal of ending the tobacco epidemic, but COVID-19 has highlighted these intersections like never before.

In 2020, deaths from tobacco products exceeded deaths from COVID-19.

For example, COVID-19 has hit both people who smoke and African Americans harder than the general population. All three of ASH’s programs strive to correct this.

We are involved as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the FDA for its failure to protect Americans, and specifically Black Americans, from the harms of menthol. We recently hosted trainings to teach local advocates in California and Washington, D.C. how to use international tools to advocate for menthol bans in their jurisdictions, which will largely protect the most vulnerable populations. And our Project Sunset seeks to ban the commercial sale of cigarettes, which will protect everyone and is particularly important during the COVID pandemic, as we all need to do everything we can to protect our health.

Our team has been thinking about where tobacco control will go in a post-COVID world, and we’re hopeful that health and more specifically lung health has become an even higher priority for those in and outside of our field.


If you’d like to ensure ASH can continue to fight the tobacco epidemic, please consider making a donation to us today>