CDC Data Shows E-cigarette Makers Continues to Prey on Youth – and FDA Policy Lets Them

American Thoracic Society | September 9, 2020

Newswise — Sept. 9, 2020 – Today, the CDC released data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showing that in 2020, 20 percent of high school students and nearly 5 percent of middle school students used e-cigarettes. Most concerning, the data shows that among youth e-cigarette users, 38.9 percent of high school students and 20 percent of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days; 22.5 percent of high school users and 9.4 percent of middle school users reported daily use.

“Industry apologists will point to the small decline in youth e-cigarette use from 2019 to 2020 but as a doctor who treats patients with lung disease, what concerns me is the high levels of daily use by children.  Not only can daily e-cigarette use lead to serious illness for kids today, it is likely setting them up for lung disease as adults.  That data shows the FDA’s passive approach to e-cigarette regulation is setting these kids up for a life-time of disease and addiction,” said Hasmeena Kathuria, MD, vice-chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee.

The data highlights the FDA’s continued failure to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids.

“Let’s keep in mind that kids are the victim in this data and the e-cigarette industry is the villain,” said Michelle Eakin, PhD, chair of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee.  “The concerning level of youth e-cigarette use is a direct result of the FDA’s failure to regulate e-cigarettes.  Even the few actions the FDA has taken have been so slow and so riddled with loopholes that e-cigarette companies continue to make and sell flavored products despite a supposed flavoring ban. The 1000 percent increase in youth use of flavored disposable e-cigarettes shows just how ineffective FDA’s current flavoring restrictions are.”

“Until FDA bans flavors in all tobacco products, they will continue to put our kids at risk,” said Ilona Jaspers, PhD, member of the ATS Tobacco Action Committee. “No child wants to inhale tobacco-flavored aerosols.  It is the flavors that entice kids to try e-cigarettes.  It is the flavors that start kids on a path towards disease and addiction.”

“What is not covered in today’s announcement is that doctors have very few tools to treat kids who are addicted to e-cigarettes.  There are no FDA approved nicotine cessation products for youth and FDA cessation products used for adults have not been shown to be effective for youth,” said Dr. Eakin. 

It is imperative for the FDA to enact a complete flavorings ban, including menthol on tobacco products like California just passed and to invest in identifying effective nicotine cessation treatments.

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