Thursday, 24 January, 2019

U.S. Surgeon General wants tougher action to tackle teen vaping epidemic

Significant increase in e-cig use among youth prompts strong warning from US surgeon general US surgeon general urges crackdown on e-cigarettes 'epidemic' among teenagers
Anna Jefferson | 21 December, 2018, 04:59

The US Surgeon General is alarmed by the increasing use of vapes by teenagers. "Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain".

"These products also use nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than the free-base nicotine that has traditionally been used in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes", according to the surgeon general.

"We need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes", Adams said in a news release.

Researchers found a dramatic increase among high schoolers, with 75 percent more this year than last year saying, yes, they have used e-cigarettes.

Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pointed to recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that showed the percentage of high school seniors who used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days almost doubled to 20.9 percent from past year.

It's a considerably sterner and more specific warning than in 2016, when the same federal office identified vaping as an emerging public health concern. "They can do it in class if they're sneaky about it", Trina Hale, a junior student at South Charleston High School in West Virginia, told the AP. Most devices heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable vapor.

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For adults, research has shown that e-cigarettes have fewer harmful components than regular cigarettes, and may help smokers wean themselves from cigarettes.

Adams singled out the e-cigarette product Juul for special condemnation because it appears to be highly popular with teenagers. "The use of certain USB-shaped e-cigarettes is especially unsafe among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain".

The devices, which are often thought of as safer alternative to cigarettes, are not harmless, the advisory noted. Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said. "They don't realize the nicotine can interfere with their brain development, that the sweet flavors don't make the products any less unsafe", Ryan said.

E-cigarette maker JUUL Labs has been under intense scrutiny and was cited as one of the main culprits for the increased usage.

The company's move came after the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to young people.

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