Published: Fri, December 21, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Surgeon general issues warning about teen use of e-cigarettes

Surgeon general issues warning about teen use of e-cigarettes

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

More than 3.6 million US youth, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students, use e-cigarettes in 2018, the advisory said. They have been pitched to adult smokers as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes, though there's been little research on the long-term health effects or on whether they help people quit.

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. "We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes".

The government's top doctor is warning parents, doctors and health professionals about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

"In the data sets we use, we have never seen use of any substance by America's young people rise as rapidly as e-cigarette use is rising", said Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"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", he added. One major advantage of e-cigarettes, in addition to a dramatic reduction in risk, is that they cost substantially less per dose than the combustible kind.

Adams singled out the e-cigarette product Juul for special condemnation because it appears to be highly popular with teenagers.

From 2016 to 2017, sales of Juul e-cigarettes shot up by 641 percent. And a typical JUUL cartridge, or "pod", contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, his office stated. How do we know that?

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

"Students are bringing e-cigarettes to the schools, using it in the school bathrooms and at times, during class". That voluntary action came days before the Food and Drug Administration proposed industry-wide restrictions on online and convenience store sales of e-cigarettes to deter use by kids.

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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