There is no denying that addictions continue to evolve as new generations emerge. And one of the latest dependencies concerns e-cigarettes and the habit of “vaping” among teenagers. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of high schoolers are puffing on a daily basis and consuming massive amounts of nicotine. The issue has gotten so bad in fact, that U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has labeled it an epidemic.
At a news conference this week, Dr. Adams addressed the topic. He urged parents and lawmakers to pay attention to the vaping craze and look for solutions to decrease it.
“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” he said from the podium. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”
Dr. Adams also wanted the public to understand the many dangers of vaping, particularly among young people. Just like traditional cigarettes, there is a tobacco concern (which is linked to lung cancer) and it can become very addictive; leading to lifelong habits. Adams also spoke out to retailers and business owners, pressing for more regulations on the sale of these products and the prospect of banning vaping from public venues.
To put things in perspective, NPR recently reported that vaping among high schoolers rose by more than 20 percent this year. It is also increasing among middle schoolers, jumping to nearly 10 percent in 2018. The stats, which were provided by The New England Journal of Medicine, are broken out more clearly below.
The concern for young people regards the nicotine element of e-cigs. Test have shown that heavy usage could impact brain development.
Human and Health Services Secretary Alex Azar also spoke at the briefing, calling out the alarming stats among teens. “We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” he added. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”
The biggest problem, both Adams and Azar argued, is that both parents and students don’t fully understand the dangers of this habit. There are also several e-cigarette manufacturers (like the company Juul, which was specifically singled out) who package the products with sleek designs, purposely designed to lure in young customers.
Clearly this is a new form of addiction that deserves attention and we applaud both Adams and Azar for bringing it center stage.