WASHINGTON Dec 8 The U.S. surgeon general on
Thursday called for action to reduce the use of e-cigarettes
among young people, noting they have overtaken cigarettes to
become the most commonly used tobacco products among this group.
The nation's top doctor, Vivek Murthy, weighing in on the
subject for the first time since e-cigarette use took off, said
young people are more vulnerable to the negative consequences of
nicotine exposure than adults.
"These effects include addiction, priming for use of other
addictive substances, reduced impulse control, deficits in
attention and cognition, and mood disorders," he said in a
preface to the report.
The report recommends that e-cigarettes be incorporated into
existing smoke-free policies, including preventing youth from
accessing e-cigarettes, implementing price and tax policies that
discourage use and encouraging federal regulation of e-cigarette
"We know a great deal about what works to effectively
prevent tobacco use among young people," the report says. "Now
we must apply these strategies to e-cigarettes."
The report is likely to infuriate those who argue that
e-cigarettes are considerably less dangerous than cigarettes and
that a refusal to recognize that removes an opportunity to help
reduce the burden of death and disease from smoking.
Between 2011 and 2015, use of e-cigarettes among U.S. middle
school students rose to 5.3 percent from 0.6 percent, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But as use of e-cigarettes has risen, traditional smoking
has gone down. Between 2011 and 2015 the use of combustible
cigarettes among U.S. middle school students fell to 2.3 percent
from 4.3 percent.
E-cigarette use among high school students rose to 16
percent in 2015 from 1.5 percent in 2011. Over the same period,
9.3 percent of high school students reported smoking traditional
cigarettes compared with 15.8 percent in 2011.
There is no proof that the drop in cigarette smoking was
caused by increased e-cigarette use. Neither is there conclusive
data to support claims that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the
use of regular cigarettes.
"More studies are needed to elucidate the nature of any true
causal relationship between e-cigarette and combustible tobacco
product use," the report said.
Even so, because research related to e-cigarettes is so new,
the report says, a "precautionary principle" should be employed
to help prevent e-cigarette use among young people.
"This principle supports intervention to avoid possible
health risks when the potential risks remain uncertain and have
been, as yet, partially defined."
The report comes as the overall smoking rate in the United
States fell in 2015 to a record low of 15 percent. Public health
experts fear those gains could be lost if young people become
addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes and progress to using more
damaging conventional cigarettes.
Reynolds American Inc, Altria Group Inc and
Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Brands Plc,
are among the leading manufacturers of the devices. Their use
has grown quickly in the past decade, with U.S. sales expected
to reach $4.1 billion in 2016, according to Wells Fargo
However, use of vapor devices in general - including tanks
and other vaping systems - has stalled in the United States as
more Americans question their safety, according to an online
Reuters/Ipsos poll released in May.
On Tuesday, Marlboro maker Philip Morris International Inc
filed the first U.S. application to market an electronic
tobacco product with a claim that it is less harmful than
cigarettes. The device, called IQOS, contains real tobacco which
is heated but not burned.
The heat produces a vapor which the company says contains
less than 10 percent of the harmful chemicals contained in the
smoke produced when cigarettes are burned. The company already
sells IQOS in dozens of countries, including Japan, Switzerland
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)