U.S. surgeon general warns of teenage risks from e-cigarettes

Vaping devices

Vaping devices confiscated from school pupils in Massachusetts Credit AP

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday issued a rare advisory calling for aggressive steps against e-cigarette use among teens, which he said has become an "epidemic". "We must take action now to protect the health of our nation's young people".

It comes as federal health officials try to combat the rapid rise in e-cigarette use among America's youth.

Adams recommends parents, teachers, and health professionals learn about e-cigarettes, talk to children about the risks, and set an example by not using tobacco products.

More than 3.6 million USA youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students, use e-cigarettes in 2018, the advisory said. According to the latest federal data, the percentage of high school age children reporting e-cigarette use in the past 30 days rose 75 percent from a year ago. Those measures directly attack products that even Adams concedes "have the potential to reduce risk for current smokers" in the name of preventing underage vaping, which itself may be driving down tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

E-cigarettes are handheld devices that induce the feeling of smoking by delivering nicotine, flavorings and other additives to the user through an inhaled aerosol.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into an vapor that can be inhaled. "Combustible cigarettes remain the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and providing an effective off-ramp for adults who want to quit using them is a public health priority".

Another selling point of e-cigarettes is that they can be used in many settings where smoking is prohibited.

Jerome Adams
Jerome Adams the US surgeon general Credit AP

"A typical Juul cartridge, or 'pod, ' contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes", Adams said in his official statement.

"We do know that these newer products, such as Juul, can promote dependence in just a few uses", Adams said.

Adams said he is concerned that e-cigarette use has become popular among young people, noting its use has become exponentially widespread over the last five years.

Last month, Juul shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts and halted in-store sales of its flavored pods.

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a series of moves, including proposals that would keep most flavored vape products out of reach for teenagers and efforts to limit online sales.

Experts attributed the increase to newer versions of e-cigarettes which look like computer flash drives and can be used discreetly, according to the Associated Press (AP).

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