U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams issued an advisory today stressing the importance of protecting children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.
E-cigarette use among youth has skyrocketed in the past year at a rate of epidemic proportions. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, the percentage of high school-age children reporting past 30-day use of e-cigarettes rose by more than 75 percent between 2017 and 2018. Use among middle school-age children also increased nearly 50 percent.
Data from National Institutes of Health’s Monitoring the Future survey also shows that America’s teens reported a dramatic increase in their use of e-cigarettes in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting use in the past 12 months, compared to 27.8 percent in 2017.
“We need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes,” said Adams. “Everyone can play an important role in protecting our nation’s young people from the risks of e-cigarettes.”
The surge in e-cigarette use among our nation’s youth has been fueled by newer cartridge-based devices that have become increasingly popular. Many of these e-cigarettes look like a USB flash drive, making them easy to conceal. One of the most commonly sold versions is JUUL, which now has more than a 70 percent share of the cartridge-based e-cigarette market in the United States. A typical JUUL cartridge, or “pod,” contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular 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 HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “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. But we cannot allow e-cigarettes to become an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for younger Americans. HHS has been and will continue developing a comprehensive, balanced policy approach to this challenge.”
As noted in the 2016 Surgeon General’s report on E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults, e-cigarette use poses a significant – and avoidable – health risk to young people. Besides increasing the possibility of addiction and long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, e-cigarette use may also lead to the use of regular cigarettes that can do even more damage to the body.
“We have evidence-based strategies to prevent tobacco use that can be applied to e-cigarettes.” said Adams. “We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”