Jack Kramer photo
East Haven Vape Shop (Jack Kramer photo)

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General on the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes among the nation’s youth is a “call to action to take precautionary measures.”

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s report states that e-cigarettes now are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.

Among the 298-page report findings are: among middle and high school students, e-cigarette use has more than tripled since 2011; among young adults 18-24 e-cigarette use more than doubled from 2013 to 2014.

The new report, the first federal report on the topic, concludes that e-cigarette used by younger populations is also strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products as well, including cigarettes.

“We applaud the Surgeon General for bringing attention to the serious public health problem of youth use of e-cigarettes and the resulting adverse health effects,” Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said. 

He said the report is a call to action for everyone from parents to policymakers.

“Exposure to nicotine poses unique health risks to adolescents and young adults because their brains are still developing, therefore increasing their vulnerability to health and mental risks such as addiction, reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders,” Hansen added.
Hansen urged lawmakers to reject the tobacco industry’s requests to undo several key aspects of the FDA’s oversight authority including, allowing e-cigarettes and cigars to remain on store shelves without an initial FDA public health review.

“Additionally, Congress should reject efforts to exclude some cheap and flavored cigars from any regulation whatsoever,” Hansen said.

Bryte Johnson, director of Government Relations & Advocacy for the American Cancer Society in the New England Region, said the Surgeon General’s report is just more ammunition for tougher laws regulating e-cigarettes and vapor products in Connecticut.

“As the surgeon general report shows, e-cigarettes are not a panacea, they are not a healthy alternative to smoking and there remains much to still be discovered about the harmful health effects of using these products,” Johnson said.

“Here in Connecticut, an alarming 7.2 percent of high school youth are already using e-cigarettes,” continued Johnson.

Johnson said what is most alarming is that 7.2 percent figure of those smoking e-cigarettes is an increase from 2.4 percent smoking e-cigarettes back in 2011, according to a 2015 Connecticut Youth Tobacco Surveillance report compiled by the Department of Public Health.

Overall, the prevalence of current e-cigarette use increased significantly among males 3.3 percent to 8.3 percent and females 1.5 percent to 6 percent from 2011 to 2015.

“ACS CAN has always advocated e-cigarettes should be regulated the same as tobacco products and they should be included in robust, well funded tobacco control programs as well to ensure people have the tools to help quit and to help prevent our kids from starting,” said Johnson.

Lawmakers on the Public Health Committee were urged back in May to pass new and tougher legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session to regulate electronic cigarettes and vapor products in Connecticut. Already they passed legislation prohibiting people from smoking e-cigarettes and other vapor products in state buildings, restaurants, schools and other facilities.

That same law required the Public Health Committee to hold a public hearing to further examine the issue within 30 days after the FDA determined e-cigarettes are tobacco products and subjected to the same restrictions as cigarettes.

The FDA announced its ruling – that e-cigarettes are tobacco products – on May 5th of this year.

At that hearing lawmakers heard about ways to tighten regulations on e-cigarettes. Public Health co-chair Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said some of what they heard will be used to help draft legislation for the 2017 legislative session.

“I believe I see the outlines of a bill for us next year,’’ Gerratana said at the conclusion of that public hearing.