Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared teen vaping an “epidemic” this week in his latest advisory on e-cigarette use among youth, stressing, “the importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.”
The Surgeon General’s teen vaping warning attributed the rise in teen vaping to “new types of e-cigarettes that have recently entered the market.” He further stated, “we must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”
The Surgeon General took aim at JUUL specifically, as well as other easily concealable flash drive-shaped e-cigarettes favored by teens, citing a 900% increase in teen vaping overall between 2011 – 2015, and a 600% increase in sales of JUUL between 2016 – 2017.
“All JUUL e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine,” Adams stated, citing dangers of nicotine dependence and potential for transitioning to regular cigarette use. 63% of youth JUUL users (15-24) were not aware that JUUL pods always contain nicotine, according to a study published in Tobacco Control. And a 2017 study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found that young adults who vape are four times more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes within 18 months than youth who do not use e-cigarettes.
The Surgeon General’s teen vaping warning draws from much of the same research as the Food and Drug Administration’s recent crackdown on flavored vape juice, aimed at curbing youth vaping.
While e-cigarettes have been shown to help adult users stop smoking, and to have significantly lower health risks than combustible cigarettes, the vaping industry is generally in agreement that it is critical to prevent youths from using e-cigarettes, nicotine, and tobacco products.
To combat the surge in youth vaping, the Surgeon General advises parents, teachers, and health professionals to be aware of the shapes and types of e-cigarettes, set a good example by being tobacco-free, and talk to children and teens about why e-cigarettes and nicotine are harmful to young people.
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