Surgeon General sounds the alarm on teens and e-cigarettes

In a report released Thursday, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is discouraging the use of e-cigarettes, which are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in the U.S.

The e-cigarette industry is relentless in its pursuit of new users at an early age, and the report underscores how successful it has been in attracting this demographic.

Dr Murthy says nicotine usage by young people risks mood disorders, attention deficits and addiction to nicotine that could lead to the use of traditional cigarettes. Are e-cigarettes unequivocally less harmful than tar-laden, chemical-filled cigarettes, as a growing body of research seems to suggest?

E-cigarette advocates say it is entirely possible that the products contributed to the decline in smoking.

According to a summary provided ahead of the report's release, the surgeon general found that flavoring was one of the most cited reasons why youth and young adults use e-cigarettes, along with curiosity and low perceived harm.

"What we do know is that, especially in kids, the brain is still developing at that age, and if you expose them to substances like nicotine - whether it's smoking or e-cigarettes - it can really influence them, as far as nicotine being addictive", he said.

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The surgeon general issued a report today on kids, and e-cigarettes. Federal figures show that a year ago, 16 percent of high school students reported at least some use of e-cigarettes - even some who say they've never smoked a conventional cigarette.While not all contain nicotine, Murthy's report says e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco-related product among youth.

E-cigarette use is now more common among teens than other tobacco-related products, Murthy said.

The surgeon general calls e-cigarettes an increasing risk for teenagers. While traditional tobacco products have always been barred from appearing on TV or billboards, e-cigs are free to advertise as they please. "E-cigarettes weren't regulated until a year ago".

"I've traveled around the country and many young people and many adults don't recognize e-cigarettes are not harmless".

Thursday's report focuses exclusively on youth use of e-cigarettes and steers clear of the broader, public health questions surrounding what has become a $3.5 billion industry: Will vaping prove to be a healthier alternative that helps adults quite cigarette smoking and reduce overall tobacco-related deaths? In light of this report, the association renews its call for tougher marketing and advertising regulations. As if that wasn't enough, stores placed them in the candy aisle. "This would be almost impossible to explain if electronic cigarettes were causing a substantial number of youths to start smoking", Siegel, who had not yet seen Thursday's report, said in an email. Finally, the report recommended implementation of FDA regulatory authority over the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of e-cigarettes, beyond what has been done already. "It was getting really bad", he said.

  • Marjorie Miles