A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General says e-cigarette use among youth and young adults has risen to the level of a public health concern. According to the report, electronic cigarette use has grown 900% among high school students from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, about 1 in 6 high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
The report is the first comprehensive federal review of the public health impact of e-cigarettes on American young people.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, "Nicotine-containing products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are not safe. As Surgeon General, and a new father, I'm urging all Americans to take a stand against e-cigarette use by young people."
The report uses the term "e-cigarette" to refer to all the different products that deliver nicotine electronically. Consumers and marketers call them by many names including "e-cigarettes," "e-cigs," "cigalikes," "e-hookahs," "mods," "vape pens," "vapes," and "tank systems." Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause addiction and can harm the still-developing young brain.
While nicotine is highly addictive at any age, it is especially dangerous for youth and young adults. The harmful effects include reduced impulse control, lowered ability to learn and pay attention, increased mood disorders, and higher risk of addiction to other forms of tobacco and drugs.
Key messages from the report:
- E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among young people.
- The aerosol from e-cigarettes often contains nicotine and other harmful ingredients, which is unsafe for the user and those who breathe it in secondhand.
- Research has shown that youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to use other tobacco products such as regular cigarettes.
- In 2015, more than ¼ of middle and high school students said they'd tried e-cigarettes.
- Brain development continues into the early to mid-20s. Nicotine exposure can harm the developing brain.
- Exposure to nicotine by pregnant women, including secondhand exposure to the aerosols from e-cigarettes, can harm a developing fetus.
The FDA now regulates e-cigarettes
In August 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating e-cigarettes and other tobacco products popular with young people, including cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco. Under the new changes:
- Tobacco products may not be sold to anyone under 18, in person or online
- Photo ID will be required to verify age
- Free samples may not be distributed
- Sales of tobacco products covered by the rule may not be sold in vending machines unless they are in an adult-only facility.
The Surgeon General's Report calls on parents, teachers, health providers, the government, and communities to protect young people from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes by treating them as seriously as regular cigarettes.
ACS CAN President Chris Hansen said; "This report is just the latest example of why we must continue to invest in comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs at all levels of government that help reduce all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes for youth and young adults. Additionally, comprehensive smoke-free laws should always include e-cigarettes."