The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
The battle to keep kids from smoking cigarettes has been phenomenally successful.
In the 1990s nearly 25 percent of high school seniors smoked cigarettes on a daily basis.
By 2015 that figure had been slashed to just over 5 percent, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
Youth who smoke, while their bodies and brains are still developing, face particularly severe health consequences. Lowering the number of young smokers is something to celebrate.
But the good news is being offset by a new threat: electronic cigarettes.
Last week Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called e-cig use among teens an “epidemic.” His agency sent warning letters to more than 1,000 retailers for selling vaping products to teens and threatened to take more action against retailers and five major manufacturers if they don’t cut e-cigarettes sales to minors.
The electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid and delivering nicotine, often at doses higher than in traditional cigarettes.
Just as the traditional tobacco industry lured kids to smoke with flavored tobacco products and marketing aimed at them, the e-cigarette industry is producing a wide variety of flavors — including bubble gum and chocolate — to add to the electronic cigarettes.
And the industry often touts e-cigs as safer than smoking tobacco and as a way to help adult smokers wean themselves from cigarettes.
E-cigarettes may arguably be safer but the long-term health affects aren’t yet well known. A recent publication by the CDC noted that the metal component necessary for e-cigarettes to work releases small particles of metal along with the vapor — metals that can cause severe lung problems, including cancers. E-cigs are also highly addictive and appear to cause damage to not just the lungs but brains and heart.
Kids who believe they can take up e-cigarettes without significant dangers are not only fooling themselves, but are making it easier for them to take up smoking traditional cigarettes.
The use of electronic devices has skyrocketed. According to a market report by BIS Research, the e-cigarette and t-vapor market was estimated at more than $11 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow over $86 billion by 2025.
Gottlieb’s aggressive approach is necessary. He’s given warning that if the industry doesn’t police itself and keep the products out of kids hands his agency will.
E-cigarettes may in fact be an aid to some adult smokers to kick their habit. But hooking millions more kids on nicotine is not a good trade-off. Those who want to quit smoking have other options available, such as nicotine patches.
Republished with permission.
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