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E-cigarette use growing threat for U.S. youth

The U.S. surgeon general says e-cigarettes are a public health threat to youth. In a new report, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy lists the dangers of e-cigarettes, and outlines strategies to help combat the problem of tobacco use among the nation’s youth.

Murthy says tobacco use is not safe in any form, including e-cigarettes. He adds that the rate of vaping among youth has increased at an alarming rate, and e-cigarettes may introduce young people to other tobacco products, possibly making them lifetime tobacco users.

Mayo Clinic’s Dr. J. Taylor Hays agrees with the surgeon general’s report. He says, “E-cigarette use among high school students has dramatically increased. Since we started tracking use in 2011, the percent of students who have used e-cigarettes in the past month has increased almost four-fold. This is a dangerous trend, because we do not know the long-term health risks of e-cigarette use, and do not understand the implications that increased youth uptake of e-cigarettes will have on public health. The U.S. surgeon general correctly points out that, ‘Your kids are not an experiment.'”

Hays adds, “While there is little doubt that, for adults who smoke, the use of e-cigarettes is less harmful than continuing to smoke combustible tobacco cigarettes, the danger for youth is entirely unknown. We may be setting ourselves up for another generation addicted to nicotine and, worse, youth who use e-cigarettes may transition to tobacco cigarettes. It would be tragic if another generation of Americans had to deal with a new tobacco epidemic. Parents, teachers, policy makers and health care providers should do all they can to raise this generation of children as a tobacco-free and nicotine-free generation.”

Strategies for reducing e-cigarette use outlined in the report include:

• Increasing price of tobacco products

• Implementing and enforcing smoke-free laws

• Creating media campaigns

While the dangers of e-cigarette use among youth are unknown, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightened regulations of all tobacco products. The regulations, which went into effect earlier in 2016, include requiring photo ID at purchase, prohibiting uncovered tobacco products in certain vending machines and prohibiting distribution of free samples.

The FDA says the regulations protect consumers and stop preventable tobacco-related disease and death. Experts in the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center encourage people to avoid all tobacco products. If you’re trying to quit using tobacco products, these tips may help:

• Try nicotine replacement therapy.

• Avoid triggers or situations where you tend to light up.

• Delay smoking: Wait at least 10 minutes before giving in to a craving.

For help kicking the nicotine habit, call the CDC hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (toll-free).

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