Smoke 100 Cigarettes Right Now If You Want a Vaccine in North Carolina (Kidding, Please Don't)

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Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

Have you smoked 100 cigarettes in your life? Can you take up, and kick, a pack-a-day habit in the next two weeks? Are you capable of looking a health professional square in the eye and lying? I do not condone these things, but if any of the above applies to you, and you are a North Carolina resident, you may be eligible to get your covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month.

Today, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that on March 24, the state will start opening vaccine eligibility to Group 4, a large swath that includes people living in group settings, additional frontline workers, and people ages 16-64 with medical conditions that put them at higher risk—among them, asthma, cancer, and “smoking,” which is defined as having smoked 100 cigarettes in the course of a lifetime. Five packs throughout a whole lifetime.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services designated Group 4 medical conditions that put people at higher risk for severe covid-19 illness, as advised by the CDC:

  • Asthma (moderate to severe)
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke 
  • Chronic kidney disease 
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia or other neurologic condition 
  • Diabetes type 1 or 2 
  • Down Syndrome 
  • A heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure 
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from: immune deficiencies, HIV, taking chronic steroids or other immune weakening medicines, history of solid organ blood or bone marrow transplant
  • Liver disease, including hepatitis 
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Overweight or obesity  
  • Pregnancy 
  • Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia 
  • Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)

Social smoking and cheat cigs included.

The governor’s office was not immediately available to comment on whether doctors will use the honor system or whether vaping counts, but does it matter? This might compel some people to, say, revisit the CDC’s finding that smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide and to Google permanent lung damage (it is not good). And then maybe check some state health resources.


Starting tomorrow, the state will begin expanding eligibility for Group 3, who, through no fault of their own, are frontline essential workers. These include people who work in child care centers, grocery stores, manufacturing, food production, transportation, health care, public safety, and government services.

You (me, ahhhckkk-heeehh-ahem) might feel a little less terrible with President Biden’s announcement today that the U.S. may have enough supply available to vaccinate every adult American by May, moving up the timeline from July. So maybe just hold off on those Marlboros.