America's top public health official has issued a rare national health advisory warning to the nation about the dangers of e-cigarettes. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams says there is "an epidemic of use in e-cigarettes," with 78 percent more high school teens using e-cigarettes over the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adams is calling for new measures to halt the rising popularity of vaping, particularly with teens. In November, the Food and Drug Administration announced more sales restrictions to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the highly addictive substance also found in regular tobacco cigarettes, which is just one of the reasons why health officials are concerned about the increase in teen vaping.
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The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, by teens is rapidly on the rise ─ nearly a 50 percent increase in just four years. And health officials believe it’s creating more tobacco smokers.
"I think the data is pretty clear so far, in the limited studies we have, that it looks like it is a gateway for youth smoking," says Dr. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.
Dr. Hays says teens who have never smoked a cigarette are three to four times more likely to start smoking in the future if they use e-cigarettes.
"We know that kids who start vaping using e-cigarettes are more likely to use combustible tobacco cigarettes later," he says.
Dr. Hays says he’s concerned that vaping appears to be reversing a long-term trend of declining teen tobacco use. He says 6–7 million people from around the world die every year from smoking.
"If the current trends of smoking prevalence continue across the world, we’ll reach 1 billion smoking-related deaths in this century."