10 December, 2016
The United States' top health official says electronic cigarettes can cause health problems for young people.
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.
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
flavoring – n. something added to provide taste
curb – v. to limit or control
nicotine – n. a poisonous, addictive substance in tobacco
impulse – n. sudden strong desire to do something
mood disorder – n. a problem affecting someone's emotional health