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irfan rahman

Gagandeep Kaur, Giuseppe Lungarella and Irfan Rahman / Journal of Inflammation

Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center has found evidence of why COVID-19 is worse for people who smoke and vape than for the rest of the population.

Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab at URMC that studies the effects of tobacco products on the lungs, said people who smoke and vape often have elevated levels of receptors for an enzyme called ACE2.

Irfan Rahman / University of Rochester Medical Center

When the federal Food and Drug Administration announced it was stepping up enforcement of its rules against flavored vape products last month, the agency said the goal was to diminish the products’ appeal to young people.

The FDA specifically named fruit and mint flavors as drivers of youth use of e-cigarettes.

But many of those flavors are still available in local vape shops.


As the federal Food and Drug Administration announced an impending ban on certain types of e-cigarettes, researchers at the University of Rochester applauded the move, but they also said it should only be the start of more regulations.

“It’s a great decision,” said Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab at URMC that studies the liquids used in e-cigarettes to figure out exactly what they contain.

“It should be a gateway to banning other products,” he continued.

Denise Young / WXXI News

Irfan Rahman’s laboratory sits at the end of a long hallway on the third floor of the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Inside, Rahman and a team of researchers take apart e-cigarettes. They analyze the liquids that the devices turn into inhalable vapors in an effort to figure out exactly what those vapors are made of.

U.S. Surgeon General

A health advisory from the federal Centers for Disease Control has linked e-cigarettes to severe respiratory problems, though the agency said the exact cause is still unclear.

The CDC urged people to avoid using e-cigarette products bought from unlicensed sellers, citing health effects that researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center said reflect a poorly regulated industry.