E-cigarette use is harmful, says surgeon general

For the first time, a surgeon general's report focuses on e-cigarette use and concludes, "The use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including in e-cigarettes, is unsafe."

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, on Dec. 8 published a report containing a comprehensive review of e-cigarettes as a public health issue. Studies highlighted in the report specifically address the impact of e-cigarettes on American youth and young adults, who now use e-cigarettes more than any other tobacco product.

"Research has found that youth who use a tobacco product, such as e-cigarettes, are more likely to go on to use other tobacco products like cigarettes," the report states.

The research echoes concerns raised by the Yes on 56 campaign that successfully defeated Big Tobacco at the polls in November with passage of Proposition 56. Co-sponsored by CDA, the ballot measure raised California's tobacco tax by $2 and applies to e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarette use by teens is increasing rapidly and teens who smoke e-cigarettes are twice as likely to smoke traditional cigarettes," stated CDA in communications to members throughout the Yes on 56 campaign. "Higher tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce tobacco use, especially among teens."

The surgeon general's report presents other major conclusions, including about the harmfulness of e-cigarette aerosol. "E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful constituents, including nicotine," the report concludes. "Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain."

The 275-page report is organized into five chapters: Introduction, Conclusions, and Historical Background Relative to E-Cigarettes; Patterns of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Youth and Young Adults; Health Effects of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Youth and Young Adults; Activities of E-Cigarette Companies; and E-Cigarette Policy and Practice Implications; plus a closing "Call to Action."

The "Call to Action" puts forth six goals and strategies that can help guide the efforts of health care professionals, parents, teachers, community leaders and organizations, state and local governments and others to reduce the use of e-cigarettes by youth. The goals range from "continue to regulate e-cigarettes at the federal level to protect public health" to "expand surveillance, research, and evaluation related to e-cigarettes."

"Although we continue to learn more about e-cigarettes with each passing day, we currently know enough to take action to protect our nation's young people from being harmed by these products," Murthy says. "To prevent and reduce the use of e-cigarettes by youth and young adults, we must work together as a society."

The full report, "E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults," can be downloaded and read online. Also available on this highly visual and interactive website are quizzes, information about risks, tips for taking action and additional resources that can be shared on social media.

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