US failure to curb the teen vaping epidemic is ‘disturbing’ and could undo ‘five decades’ of public health progress, two scathing reports find
- The American Academy of Pediatric found that there was a 75 percent surge in teen vaping between 2017 and 2018
- The American Lung Association’s annual report called the failure of US regulators to slow the epidemic ‘disturbing’
- Both damning reports place blame heavily on the FDA, which chose to delay regulation of e-cigarettes
Two damning new reports reveal that dire state of the underage vaping epidemic, underscoring the need for updated laws and policies to keep kids from getting hooked on nicotine.
E-cigarette use has increased by 75 percent among middle and high school students between 2017 and 2018, and 3.6 million of them now use the devices, a new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report found.
The American Lung Association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report found a ‘disturbing failure of the federal government and states to take action to prevent and reduce tobacco use,’ the association’s president and CEO, Harold Wimmer said.
The AAP said its findings suggest that the recent surge in teen vaping threatens set us back ‘five decades of public health gains,’ and the Lung Association said the FDA plays a direct role by not interceding.
The vast majority of the US allows people under 21 to purchase tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – earning these states failing grades (gray) for smoking prevention from the American Lung Association’s new report
An estimated one in 20 middle school students and one in five high school-age children use e-cigarettes in the US.
Even as he’s described teenage vaping as an ‘epidemic’ the FDA’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb and his agency have stopped short of passing a number of laws that medical and health associations believe could curb the alarming trend.
Fewer teens than ever are smoking combustible cigarettes, but amid the vaping crisis, that is little comfort to the AAP and the American Lung Association, both of whom include e-cigs in their analyses of tobacco use.
E-cigarettes pose a number of unique challenges to public health officials trying to keep them out of the hands of teenagers and children.
For one, the sweet flavors their e-liquids come in make them enticing and approachable to young people.
The most popular type of e-cig, the Juul, which dominates 70 percent of the market, uses e-liquid pods with extremely high nicotine contents.
Each pod contains about as much addictive nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes, and the sleek devices are easily concealed from parents and teachers, a feature indicative of the fact that the company is ‘brazen in producing and marketing products squarely aimed at kids,’ wrote Dr Wimmer in the State of Tobacco Control report.
And not nearly enough is being done by counteract these marketing efforts, the report claims.
‘This year’s report was a big wake up call,’ Thomas Carr, Director of National Policy at the American Lung Association, told Daily Mail Online, referring to the high rates of youth e-cig use and holes in smoking prevention policies.
‘I think more action needs to be taken about that and there have been some decisions by the FDA that have contributed to [the problem].’
Chief among them was the FDA’s 2017 decision to delay regulation of e-cigarettes.
That means that there is no pre-market review of the contents of their contents, ‘so we really don’t know what’s in them,’ Carr said.
‘That leaves a lot of flavored tobacco products on the market.’
He and the American Lung Association and the AAP are both calling for the FDA to reverse their decision and review e-cigs before they are brought to market, and to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
Carr further underscored the need to more states to pass tighter anti-smoking laws, such as prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 and allocating more funding to cessation programs.
The AAP called for the same bans and higher taxes on tobacco products, and urged the FDA to ‘act immediately to regulate e-cigarettes like traditional cigarettes to protect public health.’
In response, Commissioner Gottlieb defended his agency’s work and made a vague promise that it will ramp up its efforts against the vaping epidemic.
‘The #FDA has taken unprecedented steps to address kids’ use of e-cigs while maintaining access to currently addicted adult smokers,’ he said on Twitter.
‘But these points are received. The agency must – and soon will – be doing much more to firmly address this mounting epidemic.’