December 18, 2018—In a historic move, this morning the 20th Surgeon General of the United States issued an advisory that declared youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic.”  During a press conference with leadership from Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Health, Dr. Jerome Adams made the declaration citing data from the 2018 Monitoring the Future report that youth vaping of nicotine nearly doubled in just one year among 12th graders (from 11% to 20.9%), and 10th graders (from 8.2% to 16.1%)  Likewise, the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 1 in 5 twelfth graders have used electronic smoking devices in the last 30 days. 

The data tell a compelling story and as public health advocates we’ve been rushing to respond to the emerging market.  E-cigarette companies have taken directives straight from Big Tobacco’s playbook using marketing tactics and candy flavorings to hook young people.  The Surgeon General warned against the next generation becoming addicted to nicotine for life.  

The Surgeon General’s advisory encouraged parents, teachers, and lawmakers to take action to address this epidemic. In particular, states and communities are encouraged to “Implement evidence-based population-level strategies to reduce e-cigarette use among young people, such as including e-cigarettes in smoke-free indoor air policies, restricting young peoples’ access to e-cigarettes in retail settings, licensing retailers…[and] Implement strategies to reduce access to flavored tobacco products by young people.”  

“Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.” 

—Dr. Jerome Adams 

The emerging science is a cause for concern about e-cigarette use and exposure. We know for certain that these products are not harmless and do not simply emit water vapor.  In fact, ANR first called for caution and encouraged public health partners, elected officials, and the general public to take the precautionary approach to the novel products that claimed to be the panacea for combustible tobacco products back in 2009.

E-cigarettes pose a serious health risk to the user and the bystander.  For these reasons, prohibiting use of electronic cigarettes where smoking is not allowed is essential in public policy development.  ANR’s model ordinances and policies include e-cigarette use in the definition of smoking.  Currently, 789 localities and 12 states prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic smoking devices in smokefree workplace laws.   

Also, of growing concern is use of THC, cannabis oil and marijuana in vapor products which can undermine smokefree indoor air laws intended to protect workers.  This morning’s unprecedented announcement included an urging to parents, educators and to all of us to educate ourselves and address this startling information head on.

For a full list of our resources on electronic cigarettes: Read more