Surgeon general issues warning about e-cigarette 'epidemic'

Significant increase in e-cig use among youth prompts strong warning from US surgeon general

They have been pitched to adult smokers as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes, though there's been little research on the long-term health effects or on whether they help people quit.

Mr Adams singled out Juul, a Silicon Valley company, which has come to dominate the e-cigarette market with devices featuring flavours like mango and cucumber. One major advantage of e-cigarettes, in addition to a dramatic reduction in risk, is that they cost substantially less per dose than the combustible kind.

Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pointed to recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that showed the percentage of high school seniors who used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days almost doubled to 20.9 percent from previous year.

"We know that nicotine exposure during adolescence can uniquely harm the developing adolescent brain, impacting learning, memory, and attention", said Adams.

In his advisory, Adams said he is concerned about the increase in teen "vaping" because it isn't clear what nicotine will do to a developing adolescent brain. And studies show that teens who vape are more likely to also try burnt cigarettes. "Everyone can play an important role in protecting our nation's young people from the risks of e-cigarettes". Adams has sent out a public warning about the risks of vaping. "The use of certain USB-shaped e-cigarettes is especially unsafe among youth because these products contain extremely high levels of nicotine, which can harm the developing adolescent brain". A Juul pod, which sells for about $4, is roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, which can cost as much as $10.45, depending on the state.

Last month, San Francisco-based Juul shut down its Facebook and Instagram accounts and halted in-store sales of its flavored pods.

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.

"JUUL Labs shares a common goal with the Surgeon General and other federal health regulators - preventing youth from initiating on nicotine", according to a statement from Victoria Davis, a Juul spokesperson. The flavors remain available via age-restricted online sales. "They can do it in class if they're sneaky about it", Trina Hale, a junior student at South Charleston High School in West Virginia, told the AP.

Experts attributed the increase to newer versions of e-cigarettes which look like computer flash drives and can be used discreetly, according to the Associated Press (AP).

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