Top US doctor urges 'aggressive' steps against e-cigarettes

Top US doctor urges 'aggressive' steps against e-cigarettes

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday issued a rare advisory calling for aggressive steps against e-cigarette use among teens, which he said has become an "epidemic".

The public health community is often "late to the game" on critical issues involving young people, Adams told Reuters on Tuesday. "Nicotine is uniquely harmful to young and developing brains that can cause learning, attention and memory problems, and it can prime the brain for addiction in the future", Adams said.

The sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18 is illegal under federal law.

The surgeon general's advisory called on parents and teachers to educate themselves about the variety of e-cigarettes and to talk with children about their dangers.

"There is an epidemic of use of e-cigarettes going - a 78 percent increase in high schoolers using these products in just the past year".

Separate survey results released December 17 showed twice as many high school students used e-cigarettes this year compared to last year.

The survey also found a significant jump in the perceived availability of e-cigarettes.

"We need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes", Adams said in the advisory. Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said. "The use of certain USB-shaped e-cigarettes is especially risky among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain".

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Another selling point of e-cigarettes is that they can be used in many settings where smoking is prohibited.

Adams said he is concerned that e-cigarette use has become popular among young people, noting its use has become exponentially widespread over the last five years. Additionally, Adams states that Juul's liquid nicotine mixture is specially formulated to give a smoother, more potent nicotine buzz.

He said: "We do know that these newer products, such as Juul, can promote dependence in just a few uses".

Last month Juul shut down its social media accounts and halted in-store sales of its flavoured cartridges to deter use by under-18s.

Juul said in a statement that it shares the surgeon general's goal: "We are committed to preventing youth access of Juul products".

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a series of moves, including proposals that would keep most flavored vape products out of reach for teenagers and efforts to limit online sales.

This story contains material from the Associated Press.

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