Clearing the air about e-cigarettes, vaping, nicotine and health

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The promise of electronic cigarettes is straightforward: Lifelong smokers can wean themselves off a toxic habit in favor of an alternative that isn’t packed with tobacco and dozens of unsafe carcinogens.

But e-cigarettes and vaping products present health concerns of their own, experts say, and that’s due in part to nicotine.

That was a point underscored last week when the Food and Drug Administration proposed a policy designed to restrict how and where flavored e-cigarettes are sold — an effort to combat what the agency’s commissioner has called “an epidemic” of underage vaping. The initiative would limit sales of fruity and kid-friendly vaping products to stores that bar minors or have separate adult-only sections.

In a sharply worded advisory issued in December, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams implored parents, teachers and health professionals to take steps to rein in e-cigarette use.

E-cig use among teens has soared in the past year. More than 3.6 million youths — about 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students — reported using e-cigarettes, Adams noted in the advisory. A survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, released the same week, noted that more than one-third — or 37 percent — of high school seniors had vaped at least once in the past year, up 10 percent from a year prior.

Adams singled out e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs as part of the reason for the soaring use, saying one of its cartridges contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. His advisory pointed out that approximately two-thirds of Juul users ages 15 to 24 aren’t even aware that the devices always contain nicotine.



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