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Feds Ignore National Plunge In Smoking Rate, Sound Alarm On Vaping

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The surgeon general slammed electronic cigarettes as a public health risk and advised a regulatory crackdown Thursday, despite helping longtime smokers quit.

Dr. Vivek Murthy said use of e- cigarettes is rising at an alarming rate and warns of negative health consequences from the inhalation of liquid nicotine vapers. The report, the first from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General on vaping products, says that e-cigarette use among America’s youth is rapidly creating a public health crisis. Health officials largely ignore the drop in the youth smoking rate, claiming vaping could lead to an increase in users of traditional tobacco products, reports The Washington Post.

Many health experts are taking issue with the report, criticizing government officials for ignoring the positive impact vaping is having on current smokers.

“The new report on electronic cigarettes focuses on youth experimentation and completely omits the opportunities for harm reduction these devices offer for adult smokers,” Dr. Edward Anselm, senior fellow at the R Street Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This is a continuation of the recent demonization of nicotine by some in the public health community, to the detriment of 40 million adult smokers who could be helped to reduce their risk to tobacco-related disease substantially.”

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.

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.”

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.

“Overall nicotine use, for both smoking and e-cigarettes, is at an all-time low,” Anselm said. “This is especially true for young people, for whom use of e-cigs exceeds use of combusted cigarettes. Young people who try e-cigarettes are more likely to experiment with other adult behaviors, including smoking. If there were no e-cigarettes, they would go straight to smoking.”

Anti-vaping activist argue the devices are helping get a new generation of children addicted to nicotine, but the evidence to support these claims is thin. 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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