Surgeon General Warns Youth Vaping Is Now An 'Epidemic'

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Dr. Jerome Adams released a rare Surgeon General's advisory calling teen e-cigarette use an epidemic and calling for "aggressive steps" to fight it, including age limits, taxes and restricted sales.

He said nicotine use while young can increase a person's chances of developing a mental health condition or a cognitive issue like Alzheimer's later in life.

The CDC says that nicotine can harm the brain development of young people.

In all, more than 3.6 million USA youth, including one in 20 middle school students, now use e-cigarettes.

While e-cigarettes might help some adult smokers quit using the more unsafe combustible tobacco cigarettes, they're of no benefit at all to teens, the FDA and Adams say.

The 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.

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In all, more than 3.6 million United States youth, including one in 20 middle school students, use e-cigarettes. Those measures directly attack products that even Adams concedes "have the potential to reduce risk for current smokers" in the name of preventing underage vaping, which itself may be driving down tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. "They don't realize the nicotine can interfere with their brain development, that the sweet flavors don't make the products any less unsafe", Ryan said.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid nicotine into an vapor that can be inhaled. Since Adams frames bans on indoor vaping as a way to discourage underage consumption, it's clear that his real goal is not to protect bystanders from imaginary risks but to make e-cigarette use less convenient, which is bound to have an impact on adult vapers who would otherwise be smoking. Even if e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes, one cartridge still contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, making it particularly risky for the bodies of developing youth.

"Students are bringing e-cigarettes to the schools, using it in the school bathrooms and at times, during class". That effect poses special risks for young people, Adams says. How do we know that?

In a statement the company said: "We are committed to preventing youth access to Juul products". The company has rolled out an age-verification system for its products and also offered to rein in sales of flavored vaping devices popular with younger consumers, including mango, creme and cucumber.

The unprecedented rise in vaping comes at a time when traditional cigarette smoking, drinking, and other drug use has gone down among young people.

This story contains material from the Associated Press.