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Surgeon general takes on teen vaping; medical groups show support


U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, responded Dec. 18 to recent data showing a sharp increase in the use of nicotine-based e-cigarette products among American teens with an urgent call to action.

Dr. Jerome Adams is the 20th United States Surgeon General

Dr. Jerome Adams, United States Surgeon General

“I, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, [Vice Admiral] Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use,” Dr. Adams said in an advisory. “The recent surge in e-cigarette use among youth, which has been fueled by new types of e-cigarettes that have recently entered the market, is a cause for great concern. We must take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people.”

The surgeon general’s advisory emphasized that e-cigarette products are not harmless and that, in addition to potentially addictive nicotine, many products contain other dangerous substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can affect the lungs. In addition, some e-cigarette products contain potentially harmful chemicals used to add flavoring.

The complete advisory includes information for parents, teachers, and clinicians about the details of current e-cigarette products and strategies for working to reduce their use among teens.

The American Medical Association expressed support of the surgeon general’s call to action.

“The only way to prevent another generation from developing nicotine dependence is to continue to raise awareness that e-cigarettes are harmful, powerfully addictive, and can often lead young people to smoke conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes have the potential to undermine the public health gains that have been made over the years in combating the smoking epidemic,” Barbara L. McAneny, MD, president of the AMA, said in the statement.

Dr. Barbara McAneny, AMA President

Dr. Barbara L. McAneny

“Recognizing the use of e-cigarettes and vaping as an urgent public health epidemic, the AMA has adopted numerous policies in recent years aimed at preventing youth access to these harmful tobacco products. In line with the surgeon general’s advisory, the AMA also has existing policy urging physicians to educate themselves about e-cigarettes and be prepared to counsel patients about e-cigarette usage and the potential for nicotine addiction,” Dr. McAneny said. The AMA is working with the Food and Drug Administration to curb the marketing of e-cigarettes and other vaping products to individuals younger than 21 years, she added.

The American Heart Association expressed support for the surgeon general’s call as well.

“That the U.S. Surgeon General is calling teen vaping an ‘epidemic’ should seize the attention of elected officials and the community of organizations working to protect the health of our nation’s children. We commend Surgeon General Adams, Commissioner [Adam] Gottlieb and Secretary [Alex M.] Azar for marshaling parents, educators, health providers, and communities to apply proven methods to overcome the epidemic of e-cigarette use,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, said in a Dec. 18 statement.

“But more must be done in the face of rapidly rising e-cigarette use among youth. The FDA’s recent announcement that it plans to restrict marketing and sales of flavored tobacco products must be followed by immediate, concrete action that sends an unmistakable message that the tobacco industry’s relentless targeting of our nation’s children will no longer be tolerated,” she emphasized.

View the surgeon general’s video message and access additional e-cigarette information here.

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