HOUSTON – Although many teens may perceive e-cigs as a “safe” alternative to cigarettes, the U.S. surgeon general issued a report Thursday morning outlining the dangers of the devices.
The report is the first comprehensive federal government review of the public health impact of e-cigarettes on U.S. youths and young adults and comes amid a dramatic increase in popularity of youth and young adult use of e-cigarettes.
U.S. Surgeon Genera Dr. Vivek H. Murthy said, "Adolescent years are times of important brain development. Brain development begins during the growth of the fetus in the womb and continues through childhood and to about age 25. Nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain.”
E-cigarette use among American youths rose nearly 22 percent in the last year.
Three million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2015, up from 2.46 million in 2014, according to data from the 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Because most tobacco use starts during adolescence, actions to protect our nation's young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction are critical,” said the surgeon general report, referring to the nicotine in e-cigs as addictive.
In light of these new findings, “CATCH My Breath,” formed by a charitable organization, says it wants schools to teach the health consequences of using e-cigarettes, increase youths' awareness of deceptive advertising campaigns and give tools to resist peer pressure.
“Currently, 58 middle schools across ten states (including Texas) are implementing the CATCH My Breath program. What’s more, several concerned organizations around the country have decided to offer CATCH My Breath free of charge to schools in their area.
"These include: Montana Middle schools (sponsored by MT Office of Public Instruction), Central Texas schools (sponsored by the St. David's Foundation) and various county health departments in North Carolina,” CATCH stated in a news release.
UT Health and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center support distribution of CATCH My Breath to middle schools around the country, according to the organization.