Local and state health officials expressed serious concerns with the swift and steady rise in teen vaping, and they see no reversal in sight without intervention.
The concern is partly that electronic cigarettes contain nicotine which can harm brain development and metals which can irritate lungs — and partly that vaping is still so new researchers don’t know what else it might do to young people’s bodies.
A 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 30 percent of the high school students in Winnebago County used an electronic cigarette in the past month. Two years earlier, the rate was 21 percent.
In Portage County, the survey showed the use of e-cigarettes among high school students doubled in three years, rising from 13 percent in 2015 to 26 percent in 2018.
Doug Gieryn, director of the Winnebago County Health Department, characterized the increases as extraordinary. Teen use of e-cigarettes has surpassed that of conventional cigarettes.
“We don’t expect this trend to change unless we do something to create a situation where these products are less accessible and less marketed toward (youths),” Gieryn told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb declared youth vaping an “epidemic” last week and said the agency will stop the sales of flavored e-cigarettes if the major manufacturers can’t prove they’re doing enough to keep them out of the hands of minors.
The FDA is giving e-cigarette companies — Juul, Vuse, MarkTen, Blu and Logic — 60 days to submit plans to sharply reduce sales to minors.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry advocates for FDA regulation of e-cigarettes and supports restrictions of e-cigarette advertisements for TV, print media and the internet, similar to tobacco products.
“The safety of these devices has not been scientifically demonstrated, and they have been found to contain respiratory irritants, carcinogens and other volatile organic substances with unknown chronic exposure outcomes,” the organization said in a policy statement.
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