Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warns electronic cigarette use among America’s youth is threatening the public health Thursday, despite a large drop in teen smoking.
Murthy says youth vaping is rising at an alarming rate. He also claims use of e-cigarettes by young adults between 18 and 24 is troubling to health officials. The report implies that youth vaping serves as a potential gateway to traditional tobacco products, but stops short of drawing a conclusive link. The surgeon general notes that there is a strong correlation between users of traditional tobacco products and vaping, reports The Washington Post.
While youth vaping is up, use of cigarettes is dropping to historic lows. Between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of middle school smokers dropped from 4.3 percent to 2.3 percent. Smoking among high school students dropped from 15.8 percent to 9.3 percent.
“Although electronic cigarette uptake has skyrocketed among youth, cigarette smoking has fallen at historic rates,” Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher at Boston University’s School of Public Health, told WaPo. “This would be nearly impossible to explain if electronic cigarettes were causing a substantial number of youths to start smoking.”
E-cigarette use spiked nearly 5 percent among middle school students between 2011 and 2015. Roughly 16 percent of high school students now use e-cigarettes, up from just 1.5 percent in 2011.
“While the surgeon general is rightfully concerned about the emergence of a vaping culture among young people, the truth is that this vaping culture is helping to displace a smoking culture,” Siegel said. “All in all, this is a good thing.”
Many health experts argue promoting vaping over traditional tobacco aids the public health, while harsh regulations make smokers less likely to use the device to quit. Anti-vaping activists argue the devices are helping get a new generation of children addicted to nicotine. (RELATED: Veterans Are Slamming The FDA’s Plan To Smother Vaping Industry)
The surgeon general suggests applying the same rules and regulations governing traditional tobacco to e-cigarettes, due to what he deems are the negative impacts of vaping.
“These effects include addiction, priming for use of other addictive substances, reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders,” Murthy said Thursday. “We know a great deal about what works to effectively prevent tobacco use among young people. Now we must apply these strategies to e-cigarettes.”
The United Kingdom actually promotes the sale of e-cigarettes as a health-conscious alternative to smoking. A study found nearly all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users in the U.K. are former or current smokers — many of which are using the device to quit.
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