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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling on federal regulators to immediately ban e-cigarettes and implement other strict laws designed to prevent teen vaping problems that continue nationwide.
In a Policy Statement issued this week, the pediatricians group highlighted a number of measures that should be enacted to address e-cigarette use among individuals under the age of 21.
The statement was also published in the February 2019 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, coming at a time when the number of teens who are using e-cigarettes continues to surge, reaching epidemic levels by the FDA’s own definition. In fact, adolescent use increased 78% from 2017 to 2018, making e-cigarettes the most popular form of tobacco use among the nation’s youth.
The AAP warns that the rise in teen e-cigarette use threatens to rollback five decades of public health work done to prevent cigarette use. Research shows when a teen uses e-cigarettes it quadruples their chance of becoming a cigarette smoker later.
“Nicotine is highly addictive, and we know that the earlier that someone uses nicotine products in childhood, the more difficult it is to quit later,” said Dr. Brian P. Jenssen, lead author of the statement and primary care pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and researcher at PolicyLab. “Most adult smokers started using tobacco before age 18.”
The AAP is also calling for internet sales of e-cigarettes and e-liquid to be banned. One study published in 2015 indicated e-cigarettes are widely accessible to teens online who can easily skirt age restrictions.
The group is also urging the FDA to ban candy-like and menthol flavors for e-cigarettes. While the FDA took steps to crack down on e-cigarette companies last year, flavors were not a part of the enforcement regulations, despite studies showing flavored e-cigarettes increase a child’s risk they will smoke cigarettes in the future.
AAP also called for banning advertising to teens. Much of the advertising aimed toward the youth is done on social media. Juul brand e-cigarettes increased their popularity and sales by launching social media influencer programs. The company has since backed off of its social media presence in response to backlash and warnings from the FDA.
The AAP also wants tobacco-free laws and ordinances where children and teens live, learn, play, work, and visit, to be expanded to include electronic cigarettes. They also want pediatricians to begin screening for e-cigarette use and counsel adolescents about the health effects.
Recently the FDA indicated if e-cigarette companies don’t stop marketing to teens and the rates of teen vaping don’t decrease by next year, the agency will enact a full ban of the products.
However, the AAP is calling on the FDA to take that move now and enact immediate federal intervention to restrict marketing and sales to teens.
“E-cigarettes need stronger federal regulations to prevent youth access and use,” said Dr. Susan C. Walley, co-author of the statement and Chair of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control. “The research is clear that teens are at higher risk of transitioning to traditional cigarettes even with experimental use of e-cigarettes.”