Surgeon General: E-Cigarette Use Among High Schoolers Increased 900% Since 2011

By David Konow 12/13/16

In a new report, the Surgeon General warns that the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is now a "major public health concern."

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Not only has e-cigarette use gone up amongst young people, it is currently the most commonly used tobacco product for adolescents, even more than regular cigarettes. Now the United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, has said that e-cigarette use among young people “is now a major public health concern.”

As Vivek said in a press conference, “Adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects,” and it can cause “a constellation of nicotine-induced neural and behavioral alterations.” There is also the concern that e-cigarettes can become a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes as well.

Vivek was especially alarmed to report that from 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high school kids had increased 900%, with 16% of high school kids using them in 2015, a 13.4% increase from the previous year. Statistics also show that in 2015, close to 38% of high school students said they’ve tried e-cigarettes at least once. 

Not only are experts concerned about nicotine’s effect on young, developing brains, but Vivek is also worried about the marketing of e-cigarettes, which mimics traditional cigarette advertising and makes it “appealing to youth and young adults.” In addition, there’s the risk that flavored e-cigarettes can make regular smoking more appealing to young people as well. 

According to a report in AAP News and Journals, the latest surge in e-cigarette use has happened because adolescents enjoy the flavors you can smoke with them. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 put a ban on regular cigarettes containing flavors, but this doesn’t apply to e-cigarettes, and there are currently 7,770 flavors available, many of them appealing to young people like "candy crush" and bubble gum. 

This current outcry against e-cigarettes comes at a time when regular cigarette smoking has dropped to its lowest numbers in America for the first time in 50 years. Adults and adolescents have been turning to e-cigarettes because they’re not considered as harmful as regular cigarettes.

Last May, regulations were passed governing the use of e-cigarettes, but these could take several years to take hold, and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged a “call to action” in a recent report on tobacco, pleading for these regulations to go into effect, as well as calling for more policies against e-cigarettes that will hopefully steer adolescents away from them.

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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