Source: Health Policy Institute of Ohio
Soaring use of e-cigarettes among young people “is now a major public health concern,” according to a report published December 8 from the U. S. Surgeon General (Source: “Use of E-Cigarettes by Young People Is Major Concern, Surgeon General Declares,” New York Times, December 8, 2016).
The report is the first comprehensive look on the subject from the nation’s highest public health authority, and it finds that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, surpassing tobacco cigarettes.
E-cigarettes, which turn nicotine into inhalable vapor, can harm developing brains of teenagers who use them, and also can create harmful aerosol for people around the user, the report said, citing studies in animals.
“Adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects,” and can experience “a constellation of nicotine-induced neural and behavioral alterations,” the report said. It urged stronger action to prevent young people from getting access to e-cigarettes.
Some researchers have said that e-cigarette use among youth could act as a gateway to traditional smoking, but the report says the relationship is not yet fully established. Cigarette smoking among youth has fallen sharply in recent years but use of nicotine products overall remains essentially flat among young people.
With its focus on youth, the report did not address adult use of e-cigarettes, and the most divisive issue of whether the technology is an effective tool to help smokers of traditional cigarettes quit their deadly habit.