Federal regulators are pursing a new strategy that is designed to curb teen use of e-cigarettes, which have become widely popular in recent years, and may pose health risks of their own.
The new FDA e-cigarette public education campaign was announced on August 8, including a multi-faceted approach that focuses on media campaigns that are tailored to a youth audience. It will also focus heavily on teen-friendly warnings against e-cigarette and other tobacco product use.
The primary goal of the new campaign focuses on discouraging children and teens from using e-cigarettes which, due in part to the multitude of candy-like flavors, have become the most popular form of tobacco use among youth. In fact, in 2014, teen e-cigarette use increased threefold, and popularity of the “vaping” devices have continued to rise ever since.
The new strategy includes an expansion of a current public education campaign, known as “The Real Cost,” which was launched in 2014, focusing on preventing youth from smoking tobacco cigarettes. The revision, which will launch this fall, will focus on messaging highlighting the dangers of using e-cigarettes. It would include online materials and other digital messages.
“The Real Cost” campaign is estimated to have prevented more than 350,000 teens from smoking cigarettes from 2014 to 2016. The agency is hoping to have similar success with the revision.
Additionally, the FDA plans to launch a brand new campaign geared exclusively toward teen e-cigarette use prevention. They plan to include recent study data indicating nicotine has the potential to rewire the brain and prime it for a lifetime of addiction. The campaign will launch in 2018.
Research published in June linked teen e-cigarette use to a higher likelihood of smoking traditional cigarettes. In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning calling teen vaping a “major public health concern,” warning the negative effects of e-cigarettes to youth are far reaching.
Nearly 2,500 youth under the age of 18 try a cigarette for the first time every single day in the U.S. Campaigns like the existing and new ones focused on e-cigarettes are vital to public health and preventing teens from engaging in bad habits.
E-Cigarette Health Concerns
More research has emerged in recent years indicating the dangers of e-cigarette use, known as vaping. A study published in 2014 highlighted the toxic chemicals a person is exposed to during secondhand vaping.
Other studies have linked serious respiratory problems in teens, severe toxicity to mouth cells, including oral cancer, and other lung problems, such as cough, phlegm and chronic wheezing, to e-cigarette use.
The FDA press release highlighted the many avenues the agency is using to focus on teen e-cigarette use, including enforcing current regulations banning the sale of the products to minors. Since August 2016, the FDA issued 6,400 warning letters to stores and online retailers for selling e-cigarettes to minors.
The FDA also indicated it will focus on issues of e-cigarette battery safety, flavors appealing to youth, child-resistant packaging, and product labeling to prevent accidental nicotine exposure in children.
“Educating youth about the dangers of tobacco products has been a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by these products,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “Including e-cigarettes and other ENDS products in our prevention work not only makes sense, it reflects the troubling reality that they are the most commonly-used tobacco product among youth.”