US surgeon general warns of teen risks from e-cigarettes

Henrietta Brewer
December 21, 2018

NewscomToday Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that urges state and local governments to fight "the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use" by "implementing price policies" and banning indoor vaping.

"We have never seen use of any substance by America's young people rise this rapidly", Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. "Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain". Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said.

Adams says parents should be vigilant and look for signs that teens are using e-cigarettes.


"There is an epidemic of use of e-cigarettes going - a 78 percent increase in high schoolers using these products in just the past year", Adams said.

Separate survey results released Monday showed twice as many high school students used e-cigarettes this year compared to last year. "We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products". One major advantage of e-cigarettes, in addition to a dramatic reduction in risk, is that they cost substantially less per dose than the combustible kind. Even more worrisome, a growing body of research suggests that teens who vape are more likely to try regular cigarettes. He links to an FDA "fact sheet" that claims the "e-cigarette use surge" led to an "uptick in overall tobacco use" by teenagers, as if vaping and smoking are interchangeable from a public health perspective.

Mr Adams singled out Juul, a Silicon Valley company, which has come to dominate the e-cigarette market with devices featuring flavours like mango and cucumber.


Numerous devices used to consume e-cigarette products attract teens because they're easy to hide. Even if e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, one cartridge still contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, making it particularly unsafe for the bodies of developing youth.

"We do know that these newer products, such as Juul, can promote dependence in just a few uses", Adams said. The company has rolled out an age-verification system for its products and also offered to rein in sales of flavored vaping devices popular with younger consumers, including mango, creme and cucumber. A recent analysis in the journal Tobacco Control, based on data from five national surveys, found that downward trends in smoking by teenagers and young adults accelerated as e-cigarette use in those groups took off.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.


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