Surgeon General Sounds Warning on Widespread Use of E-Cigarettes by Nation’s Youth

Monday, December 12, 2016
(photo: Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images)


By Matt Richtel, New York Times


Soaring use of e-cigarettes among young people “is now a major public health concern,” according to a report (pdf) published Thursday from the U.S. surgeon general. It is the first comprehensive look at the subject from the nation’s highest public-health authority, and it finds that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, surpassing tobacco cigarettes.


E-cigarettes, which turn nicotine into inhalable vapor, can harm developing brains of teenagers who use them and also can create harmful aerosol for people around the user, the report said, citing studies in animals.


“Adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects” and can experience “a constellation of nicotine-induced neural and behavioral alterations,” the report said. It urged stronger action to prevent young people from getting access to e-cigarettes.


Some researchers have said that e-cigarette use among youth could act as a gateway to traditional smoking, but the report says the relationship is not yet fully established. Cigarette smoking among youth has fallen sharply in recent years, but use of nicotine products overall remains essentially flat among young people.


The report did not break new scientific ground, but public health advocates said the voice of the surgeon general in the debate marked a milestone.


“It’s the most comprehensive and objective answer to the question of whether e-cigarette use is a matter of serious concern that requires government action,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “The answer, based on the findings, is: yes.”


In a preface to the report, the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, wrote that e-cigarette use among high school students increased “an astounding 900 percent” from 2011 to 2015. Citing research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report found that 16 percent of high schoolers used e-cigarettes in 2015, up from 13.4 percent a year earlier. In 2015, nearly 38 percent of high schoolers reported having tried an e-cigarette at least once.



To Learn More:

E-Cigarette Use among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) (pdf)

E-Cigarette Poisonings Surge in Young Children (by Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press)

Surgeon General Report Accuses Cigarette Smoking of Causing Diabetes, Arthritis and Erectile Dysfunction (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

E-Cigarette Smoking Among U.S. Teens Triples While Tobacco Use Plunges (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Some E-Cigarettes Contain 10 Times the Carcinogens as Regular Cigarettes (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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