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Report from Surgeon General raises concern over youth e-cig use

December 8, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The federal government's voice on the topic of electronic cigarettes continues to come in the form of a loud warning cry.

Following the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) decision in May to extend its authority to e-cigarettes because of health-related risks, the U.S. Surgeon General today released a report sounding alarm over the threat associated with e-cigs' increasing popularity among youths.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a morning press conference, as quoted by USA Today, “E-cigarettes went from being rare in 2010 to being the most common tobacco product used by our nation's youth. This represents a staggering development in a relatively short period of time, and it threatens 50 years of hard-fought progress we have made curbing tobacco use and puts a new generation at risk for … addiction.”

Those who consider e-cigs a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes emphasize the devices' potential as a smoking cessation tool. But the report from the Surgeon General stresses the need for more research into the health effects of vaping, and adds that widespread use by young people threatens to encourage their use of potentially more harmful tobacco products later. He added that the risks justify tough regulatory actions at multiple levels of government.

Composition of e-cigs

Because the electronic products have been virtually unregulated since their emergence in the market, consumers have few assurances about the ingredients that make up what they are inhaling. That will change a great deal in light of the FDA's decision last spring to regulate e-cigarettes in a manner similar to conventional tobacco products.

Makers of products that were not on the market as of mid-February of 2007 (a date spelled out in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act) will have to submit new tobacco product applications to the FDA, and will be required to show that their products meet public health standards.

Also featured at today's Surgeon General's press conference was American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) president Benard Dreyer, who said that nicotine from any source is addictive and neurotoxic to the developing brain. Dreyer added that secondhand exposure to the inhaled chemicals also carries risk.

“Because there is no safe level of exposure, it is extremely important to protect children from these [products],” said Dreyer.