This policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), E-Cigarettes and Similar Devices, provides suggestions to reduce the use of e-cigarettes, the most popular tobacco product among youth. In 2018, over three million high school students and 570,000 middle school students use e-cigarettes, leading to what the Food and drug administration (FDA) has called an “epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers.”
The Surgeon General reported in 2016 that e-cigarettes are unsafe for children and adolescents; e-cigarettes contain multiple toxicants and carcinogens detrimental to health. Additionally, non-users are also exposed to these toxins through second and third-hand aerosol. Further, according to the AAP report, youth e-cigarette users are more likely to go on to use traditional cigarettes than non-e-cigarette users.
Currently, there are many gaps in e-cigarette regulation, including that there are no federal regulations on the constituents of e-cigarette solutions -- which typically include nicotine, flavoring chemicals, and other additives. As such, there can be wide discrepancies between the labeled and actual nicotine content of e-cigarettes. This is dangerous because nicotine is a highly addictive drug that can cause long-term damage to the adolescent brain. Adolescents are also more vulnerable to addiction, further verifying the consequences of nicotine usage among youth. There is also insufficient regulation of advertising of e-cigarettes to youth, which allows for the inappropriate marketing of flavored e-cigarettes as well.
The AAP proposes various methods of regulation, legislative action, further research, and counter promotion in an attempt to prevent the use of e-cigarettes among youth and curb the public health costs of a potential new generation of nicotine addicts. The AAP makes the following three public policy recommendations that would require federal regulation, primarily by the FDA:
- Reduce youth access to e-cigarettes;
- Reduce youth demand for e-cigarettes; and
- Incorporate e-cigarettes into current tobacco-free laws and ordinances where children and adolescents live, learn, play, work, and visit.