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Vaping Poses Major Health Risk for Teens, Surgeon General Warns

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The U.S. Surgeon General issued a strong warning this week about the “major public health concern” posed by vaping among teens, highlighting the negative effects e-cigarettes may have on the health of young adults and children. 

Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, issued a warning along with a comprehensive statement about the health risks of vaping, which is increasingly popular among teens and young adults nationwide.

The Surgeon General’s report “E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults” highlighted the exponential growth of e-cigarette use, reaching more than 900%, among U.S. high school students from 2011 to 2015.

Murthy explained e-cigarettes have had “staggering development in a relatively short period of time.” Vaping in 2010 was quite rare, however e-cigarettes are now the most common tobacco product used by teens, passing even traditional cigarettes and hookah.

A study published last month indicated vaping flavors make the devices more appealing to young users, causing them to start smoking tobacco cigarettes in the future.

The Surgeon General’s report also highlighted the effects of e-cigarette use. Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain. A study published in 2015 concluded e-cigarettes were just as addictive as tobacco cigarettes, refuting the claim the devices help smokers quit traditional cigarettes.

Murthy warned e-cigarettes prime a new, younger generation for the risks of nicotine. Use of e-cigarettes are associated with the use of other tobacco products, like traditional cigarettes.

More so, e-cigarettes are often easily accessible to the nation’s youth via the internet. Teens can easily skirt age regulations when buying the devices online.

The warning also concluded the effects of the aerosol are not harmless flavored water vapor, as many believe. E-cigarette liquids contain nicotine and other chemicals and compounds which may have lasting harmful effects.

A study published only days ago indicated flavoring additives in e-cigarette liquid often convert to high amounts of toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde.

Overall, e-cigarettes are recognized as generally emitting fewer toxicants than traditional cigarettes, however e-cigarettes are far from harmless. Second hand e-cigarette exposure can expose others to many harmful chemicals as well.

Murthy warns that current research shows e-cigarettes are harmful and addictive to the nation’s youth, which is a population at risk for this addiction. In 2015, 1 in 6 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past months.

Murthy is calling for stricter federal regulations, raising and enforcing the minimum age of sale laws, and widespread media campaigns to educate the public on the side effects of the devices and their liquids.

The Surgeon General’s report was written and reviewed by 150 health experts. While the report offered many details on the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, it also acknowledged remaining “gaps in scientific evidence” concerning e-cigarette dangers.

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