Surgeon general issues warning about e-cigarette 'epidemic'

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U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Tuesday issued a rare advisory, calling for aggressive steps against e-cigarette use among teens, which he said has become an "epidemic".

For young people, "nicotine is unsafe and it can have negative health effects", Mr. Adams said in an interview.

E-cigarettes can make it harder for youngsters to learn and remember and pay attention, as well as putting them at risk of future addiction, according to Adams.

While raising the price of e-cigarettes may deter teenagers from buying these products (which they are not legally allowed to do in any case), it will have a similar effect on adult smokers interested in making a switch that could save their lives.

While e-cigarettes might help some adult smokers quit using the more unsafe combustible tobacco cigarettes, they're of no benefit at all to teens, the FDA and Adams say.

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The CDC says more than 3.5 million high school and middle school students vaped in the past month, and a growing number are using Juul.

In all, more than 3.6 million USA youth, including one in 20 middle school students, use e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless", he said, noting that "nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain - which continues to develop until about age 25".

"Although e-cigs generally contain fewer toxicants than combustible tobacco products, they can expose users to harmful chemicals in addition to nicotine", he added. Analysts now estimate the company controls more than 75 percent of the USA e-cigarette market. He links to an FDA "fact sheet" that claims the "e-cigarette use surge" led to an "uptick in overall tobacco use" by teenagers, as if vaping and smoking are interchangeable from a public health perspective.

The surgeon general said each Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Additionally, Adams states that Juul's liquid nicotine mixture is specially formulated to give a smoother, more potent nicotine buzz.

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More than 10.9 percent of 10th graders said they used e-cigarettes in the past year, the survey said.

Juul said in a statement that it shares the surgeon general's goal: "We are committed to preventing youth access of Juul products".

The company's move came after the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to young people.

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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