Surgeon general: Teen e-cig use 'major public health concern'

Surgeon general: Teen e-cig use 'major public health concern'
© Getty Images

The Surgeon General called electronic cigarette use among youth and young adults a “major public health concern” in a new report out Thursday.

In the first comprehensive federal report on how electronic cigarettes are impacting the nation’s youth, the surgeon general found that marketing has played a key role in the skyrocketing rates of middle and high school students choosing to vape.

With more than 7,700 unique flavors on the market, flavoring was one of the most cited reasons why youth and young adults use e-cigarettes, along with curiosity and low perceived harm, according to 298-page report.

ADVERTISEMENT

“These products are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States, surpassing conventional tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and hookahs,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in the report.

“Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.”

The report also warns of the dangers of smoking e-cigarettes while pregnant. Nicotine can effect the development of the fetus and can also cause sudden infant death syndrome.

Though the report notes that the health effects of e-cigarettes are not completely known, it says e-cigarette aerosol is not a harmless water vapor – there are several known carcinogens contained therein.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hailed the government for publicly acknowledging what it calls a public problem and calling for action.

“I think the surgeon general has a bully pulpit and just the like the surgeon general was very instrumental in bringing the attention of the country to the dangers of regular cigarettes, I think this is an opportunity to bring the dangers of e-cigarettes, which most people think are benign, not only to the attention of the general public but, legislators and physicians, and others that work with adolescents,” AAP President Dr. Benard Dreyer said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This is a call for us to talk to every child about the dangers of vaping.”

The report recommends parents, teachers, coaches and other people who influence children to start educating youth about the risks of using e-cigarettes.

It also calls on the Food and Drug Administration to implement its authority and regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of e-cigarettes and to include e-cigarettes in policies and programs related to conventional cigarette smoking.

During a press conference Thursday, Murthy urged state and local leaders to pass clean indoor air laws.

“As a larger society, we must work to restrict e-cigarette advertising to youth while promoting a high-impact media campaign that informs young people about the health consequences of e-cigarette use,” he said.

“This report urges precautionary actions to prevent harm instead of waiting for harm to occur.”

Cynthia Cabrera, who works for The Cating Group as a consultant to the vapor industry, said it’s disappointing that e-cigarettes are being looped in with combustible tobacco products.

She claimed teens using e-cigarettes were already smoking conventional cigarettes.

“It would be great if public health and the country in general turned toward tobacco harm reduction products that work for patients dying of combustible cigarettes instead of trying or demonizing a product because they don’t like it or understand it,” she said.

The FDA finalized first-ever regulations for e-cigarettes in May that will require any product that hit store shelves after February 2007 to go through a costly approval process.

As many as five lawsuits have been filed by industry groups challenging the rules.

Updated 10:39 a.m.