Is vaping as bad as its critics say it is, or is it a lesser evil when compared to cigarette smoking? Many supporters of the practice believe that there aren’t enough studies to definitely say whether e-cigarettes are safer alternatives or not. But a new report from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy states, in no uncertain terms, that vaping represents a clear and present danger to America’s youth.
Since the early-2010s, e-cigarette use has increased dramatically, with the design of e-cigarettes radically evolving from cigarette-shaped “cigalikes” to larger, far more powerful “mods” that allow users to exhale a huge amount of vapor. And it’s these modern e-cigarette models, as well as the “tank”-style atomizers used in conjunction with them, that supposedly help more cigarette smokers quit, as a study suggested last year.
A report from Bloomberg in 2015 cited a King’s College London study where close to 30 percent of all subjects who used “refillable tank” models when vaping were able to quit cigarette smoking. In comparison, only 11 percent of cigalike users were able to kick the vice. At that time, the researchers said that their findings would be helpful to smokers looking for the right type of e-cigarette when trying to quit their old habit. But that study, and other vaping-friendly research papers, haven’t stopped government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, from launching anti-vaping reforms, and other researchers from releasing studies warning about how vaping may be bad for one’s health after all.
Those anti-vaping studies and reports have often cited statistics suggesting that e-cigarette use is dramatically escalating among younger users, especially teenagers. And that was the case when Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy released a report on Thursday (as quoted by CNN) warning about how vaping can be bad for teens and young adults.
“These products are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States, surpassing conventional tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and hookahs,” wrote Murthy in a report that states e-cigarette use among high school students has risen dramatically, increasing by 900 percent from 2011 to 2015.
The report added that vaping has increased more than threefold among middle and high school students combined. And e-cigarette use has also been rising dramatically among young adults aged 18 to 24, more than doubling between 2013 and 2014.
With these shocking statistics in mind, Murthy said that nicotine, which still can be found in e-cigarette juices, can damage teenage brains and lead to addiction. This backs up previous studies suggesting that vaping could be a gateway to cigarette smoking for young people with no previous history of the vice. And with that taken into account, Murthy believes parents have a responsibility to warn their children that vaping is a bad habit like conventional cigarette smoking is.
“Compared with older adults, the brain of youth and young adults is more vulnerable to the negative consequences of nicotine exposure… As surgeon general and as a new father, I am urging all parents to take a stand against e-cigarette use by our nation’s young people,”
Murthy’s statement has received a great deal of support, with experts showing similar levels of concern for the prevalence of teen vaping. But others still don’t see it as bad, according to CNN. Vapor Technology Association national legislative director Tony Abboud released a statement stressing that e-cigarettes are still a useful tool for adult smokers who want to do away with cigarettes and switch to something safer.
“What the surgeon general does not acknowledge with this announcement are the millions of adult Americans who rely on vapor products to switch away from smoking deadly cigarettes. While there is no credible evidence that vapor products are a ‘gateway’ to combustible cigarettes, there is scientific evidence that they provide these adult smokers with a safer alternative.”
Still, the main takeaway from the surgeon general’s report was how popular vaping has become among America’s youth, and that something has to be done about it.
In his report, Murthy also expressed support for the FDA’s regulatory reforms on vaping, suggesting that the agency ramp up its efforts in curbing the practice, especially among teenagers and young adults. Further, the surgeon general suggested the use of “educational initiatives” and other similar tools to warn young people about why vaping can be bad for one’s health.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]