Top US doctor urges 'aggressive' steps against e-cigarettes

Ebony Scott
December 21, 2018

"Aggressive steps" must be taken by parents, teachers, health providers and government officials to prevent children and teens from using electronic cigarettes, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in an advisory issued Tuesday.

For young people, "nicotine is risky and it can have negative health effects", Mr. Adams said in an interview. However, we do know the nicotine in e-cigarettes is highly addictive and could cause life-long problems.

"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.

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

In all, more than 3.6 million United States youth, including one in 20 middle school students, use e-cigarettes.

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.

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

Numerous devices used to consume e-cigarette products attract teens because they're easy to hide. "The brain actually isn't done developing until the early to even mid-20s so even through age 25 our brain is still developing and any nicotine use can affect the brain development", said Thoman.

Jerome Adams
Jerome Adams the US surgeon general Credit AP

Mr Adams singled out Juul, a Silicon Valley company, which has come to dominate the e-cigarette market with devices featuring flavours like mango and cucumber. "Everyone can play an important role in protecting our nation's young people from the risks of e-cigarettes".

Juul now has a 70 percent share in the cartridge-based e-cigarette market in U.S. An e-cigarette cartridge, or pod, can hold the same amount of nicotine as a regular pack of 20 cigarettes. Middle school-age children's use also increased almost 50 percent.

"E-cigarettes could help many American adults end their addiction to traditional cigarettes", he told reporters.

The devices, which are often thought of as safer alternative to cigarettes, are not harmless, the advisory noted.

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

Juul said in a statement that it shares the surgeon general's goal: "We are committed to preventing youth access of Juul products".

This story contains material from the Associated Press.

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