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Surgeon General report: E-cigarette use a 'major public health concern'

December 08, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

E-cigarette use among youth has increased in recent years at an "alarming rate" and public health professionals and others must work together to address it, the U.S. Surgeon General said in a report released Dec. 7.

E-cigarettes, or devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives to users via an inhaled aerosol, in 2014 surpassed conventional cigarettes as the mostly commonly used tobacco product among youth, according to the report, which is aimed at raising public health concern about e-cigarette use.

"All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults," said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy in a news release about the report, which is said to be the first comprehensive federal review of the public health impact of e-cigarettes on U.S. youth (ages 11-17) and young adults (18-24). "Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people."

The report, which can be read in full online, outlines the patterns of e-cigarette use among U.S. youth, the health dangers associated with it, how e-cigarette companies market to young people and what action can be taken at national, state and local levels to help curb use of the product.

"We need parents, teachers, health care providers and other influencers to help make it clear that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are not okay for kids to use," Dr. Murthy said. "(This) report gives them the facts about how these products can be harmful to young people's health."

The surgeon general's office also in December launched a new, consumer friendly website, E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov, aimed at educating parent and adult influencers of young people about e-cigarette use.

The report and website follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's May action expanding its authority to regulate any product it deems to be covered by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, including e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snus, hookah and other tobacco and tobacco-related products.  The ADA had written a letter in August 2014 urging the FDA to finalize this rule.

ADA policy urges its members to become fully informed about tobacco cessation intervention techniques to help their patients overcome addiction (House of Delegates Resolution 78H-2016.)

For more information about the ADA's involvement in tobacco issues, visit ADA.org/prevention.