North Carolina is offering priority vaccination to anyone who has smoked 'at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime'.
The roll-out plan, announced on Tuesday, was mocked online as residents claimed they would immediately chain-smoke their way to the top of the queue.
Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said that all frontline essential workers can have their vaccine now while giving three weeks' notice for those who are obese, in jail, pregnant, homeless - or who have smoked just five packets of cigarettes in their life.
The cohort including smokers will be called forwards on March 24, and is designed to include adults at higher risk of virus exposure or who are at an increased risk of having a severe illness Smokers are defined as “current or former” having “smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.”
The State’s rationale was derided on social media. “Isn’t that basically everyone who lived through the 1990s?” said Molly Jong-Fast, the Daily Beast’s Editor at Large.
Victor Ricchezza, a Geology Professor at Georgia State University added: “I haven't smoked in years but was just joking with my wife that I could almost certainly smoke 100 cigarettes by the time we hit North Carolina in the car.”
Former tennis champion Martina Navratalova said simply: “This is nuts.” Thousands of others said they would consider taking up smoking just to get the vaccine early.
“I've never smoked a cigarette in my life but I'm willing to start for this,” said one. Governor Cooper has not commented on the controversy, but in a tweet said the State’s rollout was “fast and fair.”
He added that “with declining and stabilizing Covid-19 data, a new vaccine, a new FEMA site in our state, recent increases in total vaccine supply, and the easing of health protocols, there are many reasons to feel hopeful.”