Tobacco

Youth Vaping an ‘Epidemic’: Surgeon General

Officials cite spike in young people using e-cigarettes
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON At a recent media gathering, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said teenage vaping has reached “epidemic” levels, threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine.

During the Dec. 18 press conference that involved other government health officials, the surgeon general issued an official advisory that called on parents and teachers to educate themselves about the variety of e-cigarettes and to talk with young people about the dangers. Outlining his advisory document, Adams said health professionals should inquire about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use and advised local authorities to use strategies such as bans on indoor vaping and retail restrictions to discourage vaping by young people.

“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

The written advisory was prompted by the latest statistics on vaping among youths, which found e-cigarette use among high school students has increased dramatically in the past year, Adams said.

Other officials described the growth in e-cigarette use by youth as a spike. “We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

For its part, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has publicly announced several proposals around flavors for tobacco products that range from keeping the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to restricted areas of any store and banning menthol-flavored cigarettes. At the press conference, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb specifically pointed to the growing risk of flavored e-cigarettes to youth as the motive for these proposals.

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