The U.S. Surgeon General recently voiced his concerns about e-cigarettes’ effects on children’s health. On Thursday, Vivek Murthy urged parents to think about the hidden risks of these devices including the risk of developing an addiction.
In the report, the surgeon general described e-cigs as an emerging public health issue for the nation’s youth.
Surgeon General’s Concerns
With 16 percent of high schoolers using them, he believes the products could spur a “whole new generation” of youngsters hooked on nicotine. Murthy, however, acknowledged the need for more studies, but he strongly believes e-cigarettes pose some risks and too many juveniles are using them.
My concern is e-cigarettes have the potential to create a whole new generation of kids who are addicted to nicotine,
he recently said.
He added that these addicts could take up smoking when they are done with e-cigs, so the country could lose its efforts to stave off smoking. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that morph liquid nicotine into a vapor which users can ‘vape.’ Unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigs do not leave behind the toxic tar which is behind so many respiratory diseases. They also have other advantages which makes them tremendously popular.
The industry has touted the products as safer than real cigarettes but more and more studies contradict this mindset. To date, scientists haven’t reached a consensus on the harmful effects of the new products. It is also unclear whether e-cigarette users are more likely to take up or give up smoking.
A 2015 federal report, shows that 16 percent of the nation’s high schoolers used the devices at least once. In just one year, e-cigarette use among teens jumped 19 percent. Officially, more adolescents now use the devices than regular cigarettes.
The tremendous popularity of vaping is associated with aggressive marketing techniques employed by the industry. In ads, e-cigarette makers glamorize the products and offer them in alluring flavors such as candy, gummy bears, and bubble gum.
Nicotine Can Hamper Brain Development
On Thursday, Murthy reiterated that e-cigarettes have become the most popular tobacco-related products among adolescents. While he acknowledged that not all e-cigs contain nicotine, he explained nicotine is hampering brain development.
“Your kids are not an experiment,”
he told parents in a public service announcement.
This summer, the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of the devices to minors citing health concerns. However, FDA bars minors from only purchasing the devices who can use them without legal consequences.
The FDA also forced e-cigarette makers to submit the ingredients of E liquids and E juices to regulators. The industry pledged to heavily lobby the new administration since the new rules would destroy small businesses.
The Surgeon General also urged parents and health providers to inform children on the health risks of the devices. In addition, called for more restrictions on vaping such as indoor bans or smoke-free areas.
Past research backs Murthy’s concerns. A 2015 study found that e-cigs may up the risk of developing cancer a lot more than regular cigarettes do. The authors of the study argued that the devices release dangerous formaldehyde agents which boost the risk 15 times over the risk from conventional tobacco products.
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