Surgeon general labels teen vaping an “epidemic”

More harsh rhetoric toward e-cigarettes and the explosion of e-cig use by teenagers over the past seven years.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams joined the head of the FDA this week in denouncing e-cigarettes, going so far as to call teenage e-cigarette use an “epidemic.”

From an NPR article:

“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said at a news conference. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”


“We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

Officials at this press conference largely blamed Juul for the epidemic, though to be fair, the increase in teen vaping was already happening before Juuls hit the market about two years ago.

Less than 2 percent of teens were vaping in 2011. In 2018, that figure has increased to 21 percent.

At the same time, there’s been a big decrease in teens smoking, which is great.

Teens getting addicted to nicotine, not so great.

I debated with a few vaping advocates on this story. They keep harping on two really false and lame narratives.

One: Who cares if teens are vaping … would you rather they be doing crack or meth?

Well, no, of course, that’s just stupid. I’d rather they not do ANY addicting substances. It’s not an either/or situation. It’s not either they vape or they do meth. I’d rather they do NEITHER.

And the second lame point: “Well, e-cigs don’t have the toxins of cigarettes, and they’re much safer than cigarettes.”

Yes, probably. And I emphasize “probably,” big time. Because the jury is still out about that. No one is totally sure everything that is in e-cig vapour. Yes, e-cigs don’t contain the Polunium-210 and carbon monoxide and benzene that cigarette smoke does, but it still contains formaldehyde and most of all … nicotine, which is incredibly addictive. And studies have shown that a higher percentage of teens who vape eventually take up smoking to get their nicotine fixed filled, than teens who never vaped to begin with.

Anyway, I’m going to get into these weak-ass arguments in a little more in-depth in a later post about libertarian fake journalist and tobacco industry apologist stooge John Stossel (again … this isn’t my first go-around with Stossel, who seems to really have a thing about tobacco issues.).

Anyway, to try and combat the increase in teen vaping, the FDA has proposed putting limits on where e-cigarettes can be sold, ruling that they must be sold in an area closed off to minors. The FDA pulled up just short of flat out banning e-cigarette sales in minimarts and convenience stores, which was being proposed.

Strong language, for sure from the surgeon general. It’s going to be really interesting what will happen with the e-cigarette industry in the next two or three years.

Here’s a good article from the Verge about what Adams’ proclamation actually means. It means e-cigarettes are squarely in regulators’ sites:

From the Verge:

The Surgeon General’s power is more about influence, and less about enforcement: the real regulatory power over vaping comes from the Food and Drug Administration. So this advisory doesn’t have any legal force, Micah Berman, a professor of health services management and policy at The Ohio State University, tells The Verge in an email. “They are a tool used by the Surgeon General to call attention to an issue and to provide guidance to the public,” Berman says. “They are only issued rarely, when immediate action is called for — which is what makes them so noteworthy.”


That’s why it’s particularly significant that the Surgeon General is using the word “epidemic,” says Kathleen Hoke, a professor specializing in public health law at the University of Maryland: “Using the e-word, epidemic, takes it to a higher level. From a public health perspective, we try not to use that word unless it’s warranted — otherwise you have the boy cried wolf,” she says. But she says, according to these health officials, youth vaping has reached that level: “It’s broad, vast in its impacts, and of deep concern about its lasting effects.”




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