US Health Report: E-Cigarettes Not Safe for Young People

10 December, 2016

The United States' top health official says electronic cigarettes can cause health problems for young people.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released his first report on e-cigarettes this week. He called the devices a public health threat to America's youth.

The surgeon general is the U.S. government's top medical officer. He uses scientific information to give the best advice for improving health and reducing the risk of sickness and injury.

Most electronic cigarettes use nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco plants, just like traditional cigarettes. But users do not light e-cigarettes because they are powered by a battery. They usually also contain flavoring and other chemicals.

In this file photo, Daryl Cura demonstrates smoking an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago.
In this file photo, Daryl Cura demonstrates smoking an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago.

E-cigarettes have increasingly grown in popularity nationwide since 2010. Officials say the devices are now the most used tobacco product by American youth and young adults.

In releasing the report, Surgeon General Murthy said the rising popularity of e-cigarettes is hurting past efforts to reduce tobacco use among young people.

"It also threatens 50 years of hard-fought progress that we have made curbing tobacco use. And it places a whole new generation at risk for addiction to nicotine..."

He also said the new report is meant to help families and communities understand the scientific reasons why e-cigarettes are harmful.

"The message from the report is clear. Nicotine-containing products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are not safe for youth."

The Surgeon General's report notes that nicotine is a highly addictive chemical. Users can develop a dependence on the drug.

The report says nicotine can harm brain development in teenagers and young adults. Murthy said those harmful effects can include deficits in attention and learning, reduced impulse control, and mood disorders.

The report notes research showing that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use traditional cigarettes. It also found that chemicals sent into the air by e-cigarettes can harm the users and people around them.

Supporters of e-cigarette use have suggested that the devices can help smokers of traditional cigarettes cut back or even stop smoking. But Murthy said there is no evidence to back up this claim. He said millions more children are now being exposed to nicotine through e-cigarettes.

Murthy noted that he is keeping "an open mind" to see if future evidence proves that e-cigarettes can help adults stop smoking.

The report calls for restrictions on the amount of advertising used in e-cigarette ad campaigns. It also urges national educational programs to inform young people about the risks of the devices. The surgeon general said U.S. officials need to act now to help create a healthy, tobacco-free generation.

In a public service video message, Murthy gives a strong warning to parents. "You're kids are not an experiment. Protect them from e-cigarettes."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

flavoringn. something added to provide taste

curb v. to limit or control

nicotinen. a poisonous, addictive substance in tobacco

impulsen. sudden strong desire to do something

mood disordern. a problem affecting someone's emotional health