A new report released by the U.S. Surgeon General last month raises public health concerns about e-cigarette use among America's youth and young adults. The first comprehensive federal evaluation on the subject was written and reviewed by more than 150 experts.
"All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults," said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, in releasing the report. "Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people."
The report comes at a time when there has been a sharp increase in the rate of use among young people. In 2011, 1 percent of high school girls and 2 percent of high school boys were current e-cigarette users. By 2015, those numbers had jumped to 13 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys in high school. Furthermore, more than one-quarter of students grades 6-12 and more than one-third of young adults had tried e-cigarettes.
The report stated that, while nicotine is a highly addictive drug at any age, youth and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the long-term consequences of exposing the brain to nicotine, and concluded youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe. The report also found the secondhand aerosol that is exhaled into the air by e-cigarette users could expose others to potentially harmful chemicals.
Additionally, the report said e-cigarette marketing often promotes flavors and uses a wide variety of media channels and approaches similar to those used in the past for marketing conventional tobacco products to youth and young adults.
To counteract that marketing effort, a new interactive website has been launched containing key information from the report. E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov was written specifically for adult influencers and includes facts, details on risks, resources, and specific actions to try to reverse the usage trend.
"We need parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and other influencers to help make it clear that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are not okay for kids to use" Murthy said.