The government’s top doctor issued an advisory this morning to alert parents, doctors and health professionals about the dangers of e-cigarettes. It comes as federal health officials try to combat the rapid rise in e-cigarette use among America’s youth. Mola Lenghi reported from Washington, D.C.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams officially declared e-cigarettes an epidemic in the U.S. Tuesday.
“We must protect our nation’s young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated problems,” said Adams.
E-cigarette use has skyrocketed among America’s youth. According to the latest federal data, the percentage of high school age children reporting e-cigarette use in the past 30 days rose 75 percent from last year. Vaping among middle school-age children also increased nearly 50 percent. Currently, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth use e-cigarettes, including one in five high school students.
“Students are bringing e-cigarettes to the schools, using it in the school bathrooms and at times, during class,” said Dr. Mila Vascones-Gatski, a substance abuse counselor. “How do we know that? Because they are taking selfies of themselves vaping in the classroom.
The unprecedented rise in vaping comes at a time when traditional cigarette smoking, drinking and other drug use has gone down among young people. But health experts stress less harm is not harmless.
“We know that nicotine exposure during adolescence can uniquely harm the developing adolescent brain, impacting learning, memory and attention,” said Adams.
Part of the problem they say, is many e-cigarettes look like a USB flash drive making them easy to conceal. Officials are calling on parents to learn more and have conversations with their children and on health professionals to screen for e-cigarette use.
The FDA introduced steps last month to cut down young people’s access to flavored e-cigarettes which is driving the epidemic. Officials say they will continue to crack down on stores that illegally sell e-cigarettes to minors.