The U.S. Surgeon General’s office released a sharp condemnation of e-cigarette use, especially among young people and teens, calling the rise in usage an “epidemic” in statements on Tuesday.
Citing previous research into “vaping” that was conducted years ago, Surgeon General Jerome Adams stated that the use of e-cigarettes was definitively “unsafe” for youngsters.
“Two years after my predecessor sounded the alarm bells, youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed — so much so today that I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said, per reporting from ABC News.
He added that the use of the word “epidemic” was purposeful. “I do not use that word lightly,” Adams said.
A particular concern for e-cigarette usage, especially for young people, is the amount of nicotine that is in the product. A common e-cigarette cartridge from producer JUUL, a popular e-cigarette company, contains the same levels of nicotine as does about 20 cigarettes.
Nicotine’s effects on young people are troubling. Besides leading to addiction, nicotine can also interfere with brain development, which lasts in most people up until the age of 25, according to the surgeon general’s website. E-cig devices also contain heavy metals, including nickel, tin, and lead, which are harmful to the body. Prolonged exposure to diacetyl, which is common in most devices, can cause lung disease, for example.
The findings by the surgeon general demonstrate that commonly-held perceptions of the use of e-cigarettes are not founded on fact. Some individuals, for example, claim that e-cigarette use is healthier than smoking regular cigarettes, but as the National Center for Health Research points out, even though e-cigs don’t have tobacco in them, many of the other harmful chemicals found in conventional cigarettes are still present in e-cigarettes.
Indeed, after a recommendation by some medical professionals in Great Britain caused a stir, in which some suggested e-cigarettes could be used to help individuals struggling with addiction in hospitals, another study found that just the opposite held true.
Following smokers across the entire European Union, that study demonstrated that e-cigarette use didn’t cut down on conventional cigarette usage — in fact, people who smoked e-cigs were less likely to cease smoking regular cigarettes, according to the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
Unfortunately, e-cigarette usage is so widespread among teenagers that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 1 in 5 high schoolers are using the products regularly, amounting to around 3 million students nationwide.