In 2015, one in six high school students reporting using an e-cigarette in the last month. In response to increased use among young people, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report Thursday arguing that e-cigarette use among young people is public health threat. It’s the first Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes’ risks for youth.
In the report, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said youth and young adults are especially vulnerable to addictive-nicotine exposure to the brain. The secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes may also add to other people’s exposure to harmful chemicals.
“All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults,” Murthy said in a statement. “Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people.”
Earlier this year, the government announced that e-cigarettes are considered tobacco products and will be regulated as such. This is largely because while they don’t produce harmful tar, they contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco and is addictive. There’s some debate in the medical community over whether there is any value in e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. Murthy’s report focuses on use among youth specifically.
The report, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said was reviewed by more than 150 experts, said e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco products among young people. Murthy said e-cigarettes are marketed to youth through their different flavors and a variety of media approaches.
To combat the issue, Murthy recommended enforcing minimum age-of-sale laws for e-cigarettes, incorporating e-cigarettes into smoke-free policies, regulating e-cigarette marketing, and increasing research on the health effects of e-cigarettes.
“We need parents, teachers, health care providers, and other influencers to help make it clear that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are not okay for kids to use,” Murthy said.
You can read more about e-cigarettes and how they appeal to young people, here.