At risk of nicotine addiction

E-cigarettes are hooking a new generation on nicotine and tobacco products.

Vaping nicotine
Aleksandr Yu |

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The U.S. Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use, commonly known as vaping, among young people an epidemic due to its popularity and health risks. At least two million high school and middle school students reported vaping in 2021. An entire generation is at risk of nicotine addiction, and millions of kids are already hooked on nicotine with serious implications for their health and future.

Four reasons we're working to end the nicotine trap

1. Youth vaping is a crisis

More than 2 million middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes.

2. Flavors attract kids

More than 80 percent of young people reported that they use e-cigarettes because they “come in flavors I like.”

3. E-cigarettes contain nicotine

One study found that 40 percent of teens didn’t know they were using e-cigarettes that contained nicotine.

4. No health review

E-cigarettes are on the market without having gone through the legally required public health review.

Addictive and damaging, especially to kids

While health experts agree that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes, the United States Center for Disease Control states that the “use of tobacco products by youths in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe.” Vaping often delivers a highly addictive dose of nicotine, a drug that can impair brain development, impact learning, contribute to mood disorders, and increase the risk of future addiction to other dangerous substances when people are exposed to it in adolescence. Research suggests that vaping could be a potential gateway for young people to increased cigarette smoking. A meta-analysis of recent studies shows that young adults who vape are three times more likely than non-users to start smoking cigarettes.

To make matters worse, some studies have found that e-cigarette aerosol can contain lead, nickel, tin, benzene and diacetyl — chemicals linked to cancer, central nervous problems and lung disease.

A new generation hooked on tobacco products?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the surge in e-cigarette use has erased the decline in any tobacco product use among youth that occurred in previous years.

How did a new generation become hooked on tobacco products so quickly? A major factor is flavored vaping liquids–with options including mango, cotton candy, and Pop Tart, e-cigarette makers have created a line of flavored products that appeal to young people.

Another big factor: Kids often don’t know they are using nicotine, or how dangerous it is. One survey found that 40 percent of teens didn’t know they were using e-cigarettes that contained nicotine. Another survey showed that about 10 percent of U.S. youth believe e-cigarettes cause no harm, and 62 percent believe occasional use causes only little or some harm.

The FDA is not doing enough

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed e-cigarettes to remain on the market without going through the proper review because the agency believed the products would help adult smokers quit. The FDA made a bad judgment call, and the consequence was the rapid rise of e-cigarette use among young people, many of whom likely would never have used a tobacco product. This huge surge in nicotine use has negative and far-reaching consequences for public health.

The agency took steps to curb the sale of some fruit and candy flavored e-cigarettes, but it left many flavors that appeal to youth available for sale — including mint and menthol — and many avenues, like online sales, open.

Thanks to a lawsuit by public health groups, e-cigarette manufacturers had to submit applications to the FDA for review by September 9th, 2020, and the agency had one year to either approve the products or pull them from the market. That deadline has come and gone, and unauthorized products continue to fall into the hands of kids. The FDA has also yet to review some of the most popular e-cigarettes on the market, including Juul, NJOY, and many products by Vuse.

It’s time for the FDA to end the nicotine trap

We’re calling on the FDA to do two things. First, the agency should take all flavored tobacco products off the market. The potential benefit to the adults who claim to be using these flavored e-cigarettes to quit smoking simply doesn’t outweigh the public health risk these products pose to America’s young people. Second, the FDA should pull e-cigarettes not yet reviewed off the market until they undergo the required public health review, and regulate e-cigarettes at least as tightly as we do combustible cigarettes.

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