Aleksandr Yu via

E-cigarettes are hooking a new generation on nicotine and tobacco products.

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use, commonly known as vaping, among young people an epidemic due to its popularity and health risks. One in 5 high schoolers reported vaping in 2018, a nearly 80 percent increase in one year. An entire generation is at risk of nicotine addiction, and millions of kids are already hooked on nicotine with serious implications for their health and future.

That’s why we’re working to end the nicotine trap now.

Addictive and damaging, especially to kids

While health experts agree that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes, the Surgeon General states that “any e-cigarette use among young people is unsafe. Vaping often delivers a highly addictive dose of nicotine, a drug that can impair brain development, impact learning, cause mood disorders, and increase the risk of future addiction to other dangerous substances when people are exposed to it in adolescence. Research suggests that vaping could be a potential gateway for young people to increased cigarette smoking. A meta-analysis of recent studies shows that young adults who vape are three times more likely than non-users to start smoking cigarettes.

To make matters worse, some studies have found that e-cigarette aerosol can contain lead, nickel, tin, benzene and diacetyl — chemicals linked to cancer, central nervous problems and lung disease.

A new generation hooked on tobacco products?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the surge in e-cigarette use has erased the decline in any tobacco product use among youth that occurred in previous years.

How did a new generation become hooked on tobacco products so quickly? A major factor is the flavored vaping liquids. With options including fruit medley, mango, vanilla and tobacco, e-cigarette makers have created a line of products with massive appeal to younger people.

Another big factor: Kids often don’t know they are using nicotine, or how dangerous it is. A recent survey found that 40 percent of teens didn’t know they were using e-cigarettes that contained nicotine. Another survey showed that about 10 percent of U.S. youth believe e-cigarettes cause no harm, and 62 percent believe occasional use causes only little or some harm.

The FDA is not doing enough

E-cigarettes are on the market without having gone through the legally required public health review for tobacco products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed e-cigarettes to remain on the market without going through the proper review because the agency believed the products would help adult smokers quit. The FDA made a bad judgment call, and the consequence is the rapid rise of e-cigarette use among young people, many of whom likely would never have used a tobacco product. This huge surge in nicotine use has negative and far-reaching consequences for public health.

Although the agency has proposed some measures to restrict the appeal and access of e-cigarettes to young people, they do not go far enough or act quickly enough.

The proposed rules call for makers of sweet-tasting vapes to apply for FDA approval by August of 2021, and then that approval process could take years. Meanwhile, those e-cigarettes and flavors are still being sold, and millions more teenagers will get hooked on nicotine. The proposed rules also try to limit the sales of many fruit and candy-flavored e-cigarettes. It’s a move in the right direction, but it still leaves many appealing flavors available for sale — including mint and menthol — and many avenues, like online sales, open.

It’s time for the FDA to end the nicotine trap

We’re calling on the FDA to do two things. First, the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, and other flavored tobacco products, should just be banned. The potential benefit to the adults who claim to be using these flavored e-cigarettes to quit smoking simply doesn’t outweigh the public health risk these products pose to America’s young people. Second, the FDA should pull e-cigarettes not yet reviewed off the market until they undergo the required public health review, and regulate e-cigarettes at least as tightly as we do combustible cigarettes.

Help end the nicotine trap

Call on the FDA to protect public health by prohibiting the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, and other flavored tobacco products, and pulling e-cigarettes not yet reviewed off the market until they undergo the required public health review.