Surgeon General: Youth Vaping a Public Health Threat

A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General raises public health concerns about e-cigarette use among U.S. youth and young adults. The report comes amid alarming rates of youth and young adult use of e-cigarettes; in 2015, about 1 in 6 high school students used an e-cigarette in the past month. The report finds that, while nicotine is a highly addictive drug at any age, youth and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the long-term consequences of exposing the brain to nicotine, and concludes that youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe. The report also finds that secondhand aerosol that is exhaled into the air by e-cigarette users can expose others to potentially harmful chemicals.

UW-CTRI is currently studying vaping in adults in the Exhale Study.

The Surgeon General's report, which was written and reviewed by more than 150 experts, is the first comprehensive federal review of the public health impact of e-cigarettes on U.S. youth and young adults. These devices are referred to, by the companies themselves, and by consumers, as “e-cigarettes,” “e-cigs,” “cigalikes,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” and “tank systems.” The report uses the term “e-cigarette” to represent all of the diverse products in this rapidly diversifying product category. In addition to documenting the evidence on the health risks of e-cigarettes among young people, the report describes industry influences on e-cigarette use and outlines potential actions to prevent youth and young adults from the harms of 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 releasing the report. “Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people.”

Call to Action

In light of the fact that about 1 in 6 high school students used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days in 2015, the report issues a Call to Action to prevent e-cigarette use and related harms among America’s young people.

Those recommended actions include:

  • continuing to regulate e-cigarettes at the Federal level to protect public health,
  • raising and strongly enforcing minimum age-of-sale laws for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,
  • incorporating e-cigarettes into smoke-free policies,
  • regulating e-cigarette marketing,
  • sponsoring high-impact media campaigns to educate the public on the harms of e-cigarettes among young people, and
  • expanding research efforts related to e-cigarettes.