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Addressing the Dangers of Increased E-Cigarette Use Among Youth: A Call to Action for Clinicians

Addressing the Dangers of Increased E-Cigarette Use Among Youth: A Call to Action for Clinicians

E-cigarettes and Youth in LA County

Many in the medical and public health communities are increasingly concerned with the use of electronic cigarette products (e-cigarettes) among youth. These electronic products, which are handheld devices designed to “deliver emissions for inhalation by heating a solution that commonly contains nicotine, a humectant, and flavoring chemicals” (i.e., designed for the act of vaping) are becoming all too common in youth sensitive areas such as schools, parks, and libraries. The devices are also often used to deliver other dangerous chemicals such as cannabis/tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although research is underway to further study the use of e-cigarettes as a cessation aid for helping adult smokers quit using conventional cigarettes, the highly addictive nature of nicotine combined with the heavy promotion of these products to youth through subversive marketing and use of flavorings has caused a public health crisis in younger populations.

With the rapid rate in which adolescents have embraced e-cigarette use in less than a decade, a significant portion of the next generation of Americans may become dependent on nicotine, en route to further risk of experimentation and transition to conventional cigarette or recreational drug use. Considering the recent national statistics (Table 1), the 60+ years of progress that our nation has made in tobacco control may be erased within a matter of a few years. Moreover, the recent outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette use and growing number of fatalities underscore the potentially dire consequences that these products can cause. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Medical Association are currently recommending that all persons refrain from using e-cigarettes until more information is gathered and more is known about their dangers and association to severe lung injury. In 2018, the former United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, called the “disturbing and accelerating trajectory” of e-cigarette use among youth an “epidemic,” a term which he used “with great care.”

This article reviews the national and local data on e-cigarette use among youth and discusses ways in which clinicians can help to curb this growing public health problem.

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