The U.S. Surgeon General has issued an advisory on vaping, just a day after a major survey found that teen vaping has nearly doubled in the past year.
In the advisory, Surgeon General Jerome Adams says that “e-cigarette use among youth has skyrocketed in the past year at a rate of epidemic proportions.” He specifically cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that the percentage of high-school-age children who said they used e-cigarettes in the past 30-days rose by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018. Even middle-school-aged children are vaping: Their use increased nearly 50 percent in the past year.
“We need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes,” Adams said in the advisory. “Everyone can play an important role in protecting our nation’s young people from the risks of e-cigarettes.” Adams also urged new local restrictions, including taxes and indoor vaping bans, to help fight teen vaping.
The advisory comes just a day after the release of data from the National Institutes of Health’s Monitoring the Future survey, which found that 37.3 percent of 12th graders say they’ve used e-cigarettes in the past year. That’s compared with 27.8 percent who said the same thing in 2017.
Adams specifically points the finger at “newer cartridge-based devices” that look like a USB flash drive, “making them easy to conceal.” One of the most common versions of this is JUUL, which has a more than 70 percent share of the cartridge-based e-cigarette market in the U.S. The advisory also points out that a typical JUUL cartridge, or “pod,” contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes — that’s a fact that nearly 65 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds don’t realize, according to a recent survey from the Truth Initiative.
With vaping, “you’re inhaling tobacco, which is an addictive chemical, along with a host of other chemicals like propylene glycol and formaldehyde,” Raymond Casciari, MD, a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “There’s potential for harm and definitely potential for addiction.”
Starting vaping at a young age is also just a bad idea, Casciari says. “Any substance that is continually and habitually put in the lung that is a lung irritant can have long-term effects, especially if the lungs are still developing,” he says. That may mean an increased risk of lung infections, asthma attacks, heart disease and stroke. The risk of lung cancer is “probably less with vaping than combustible cigarettes,” Casciari says. And, while he says that vaping may be better for your lungs than smoking cigarettes, “the best thing for your lungs and your health is not to smoke at all.”
Vaping also poses a risk to the developing brain, Susan Besser, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The teenage brain is not completely developed,” she says. “Any noxious substance can cause harm to the brain.”
The hand-held vaporizers can also be dangerous — there have been multiple reports of them exploding during use, Casciari says.
It’s hard to say exactly why so many teens are vaping right now, but Besser says that peer pressure likely plays a huge role. Taste is also a big factor. “Unlike cigarettes and other tobacco products, the contents of the vape mixture can be made to taste sweet [and] sweet rather than bitter will encourage consumption,” she says. “Teens don’t register it as a toxic substance because it’s sweet.” The discretion of e-cigarettes — the fact that there’s no tobacco smell or smoke — is also likely a big draw, Besser says.
Adams wrapped up the advisory by recommending that “evidence-based strategies to prevent tobacco use” be applied to e-cigarettes. “We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people,” he said.
“Talk to your kids about vaping,” Danelle Fisher, MD, chief of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., adds to Yahoo Lifestyle. “The right information messaged in the right way is crucial. That means being informational and not accusatory — that’s crucial.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Students petition for mascot to use vape instead of pipe to represent ‘the diverse and ever-changing student body’
- Teens are smoking e-cigs in record numbers, but this vape maker is taking steps to stop it
- Teens attacked in a mall parking lot say alleged assailants yelled, ‘You dumb white girls’