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As Use of E-Cigarettes by Children Increases, the American Thoracic Society Calls for Tighter Regulation

April 16, 2015 – Today’s data from the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) on yet another dramatic rise in the use of electronic cigarettes by middle and high school students reinforces the long-held position of the American Thoracic Society that e-cigarettes need to be subject to the same marketing and manufacturing restrictions as tobacco products.

The CDC report notes that decreases between 2013 and 2014 in cigarette and cigar use among middle and high school students have been offset by increases in e-cigarette and hookah use, and that for the first time, current e-cigarette use among young people is higher than for any other tobacco product. In 2014, among all high school students, e-cigarettes (13.4%) were the most common tobacco products used, followed by hookahs (9.4%), cigarettes (9.2%), cigars (8.2%), smokeless tobacco (5.5%), and other products. Among high school students, current e-cigarette use tripled from 660,000 in 2013 to 2 million in 2014, and among middle school students, the prevalence of e-cigarette use increased from 120,000 to 450,000.

“The short- and long-term health risks of these nicotine-delivery devices are largely unknown,” said ATS President Tom Ferkol, MD. “Until we understand the actual risks of these products, their promotion and manufacturing processes should be controlled, especially in light of their steadily increasing use by children and adolescents, in whom they can serve as a gateway to use of other dangerous tobacco products.  Claims that these products are not marketed to the young are not supported by the evidence.” 

The CDC report released today echoes a similar report released in 2013, which showed that more than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes that year, reflecting a three-fold increase, from about 79,000 in 2011 to more than 263,000 in 2013.

This alarming trend, if left unchecked, will lead to another generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine and will do tremendous and costly damage to the public’s health. The new CDC data shows that Big Tobacco is once again peddling a new product intended to get youth hooked on nicotine, and that e-cigarettes are not about harm reduction or smoking cessation, but about addiction.

The full ATS policy position on e-cigarettes is available here.