E-cigarette use among youth rises while FDA delays regulatory action
The percent of middle and high school students who currently use e-cigarettes has tripled in the past year, from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, according to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey. This alarming increase happened while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether or not it will use its authority to regulate the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes.
Without FDA regulation, e-cigarette manufacturers can market their products in candy or fruit flavors that appeal to youth. E-cigarettes can also be sold without warning labels or a list of ingredients. The ingredients in e-cigarettes can vary widely based on brand, but the majority of e-cigarettes have liquid nicotine as the key ingredient.
Nicotine is an addictive substance, and young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of nicotine because the drug can alter brain development and functioning in adolescents. Moreover, when adolescents use nicotine, they increase their risk of addiction to other substances. Additional ingredients in e-cigarettes may even be carcinogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer, further adding to the health risks to adolescent users.
In light of this increase in adolescent e-cigarette use, advocates are calling on the FDA to finalize its proposed rule and use its authority to regulate e-cigarettes. New York Sen. Charles Schumer recently voiced his concerns about the potential harms of e-cigarettes to youth and is urging the FDA to ban “fun flavors” from e-cigarettes and to prohibit manufacturers from marketing to kids. The same sale and marketing restrictions are in place for traditional cigarettes, and these restrictions should also apply to e-cigarettes.
CASAColumbia commends Sen. Schumer for calling on the FDA to exercise its regulatory authority, and we share his concerns about the health effects of e-cigarette use on adolescents. The FDA should consider the evidence on e-cigarettes — in particular, the tripling of use among middle and high school students — and move to restrict the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to kids in the interest of public health.
Mark Stovell is a freelance blogger for CASAColumbia