The US Food and Drug Administration will stage a massive education campaign
aimed at the nearly 10.7 million teens at risk for e-cigarette use and
potential addiction, the agency said Tuesday.
For the first time, the agency will take the message that vaping is
dangerous into high school bathrooms and social media feeds of those
at-risk youth to stop what the FDA calls an epidemic of e-cigarette use by
minors.The trend was flagged in a 2016 report from the US surgeon general,
which cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students
between 2011 to 2015.More than 2 million middle and high school students
used e-cigarettes in 2017, the FDA said.
“We’re in possession of data that shows a disturbingly sharp rise in the
number of teens using e-cigarettes in just the last year,” FDA Commissioner
Dr. Scott Gottlieb said. “In short, there’s no good news.”
While applauding the FDA’s move, Linda Richter, director of policy research
and analysis for the nonprofit Center on Addiction, said that if the agency
had taken action when the trend was first identified, “we probably could
have avoided the surge in the use of child-friendly, high-dose nicotine
products that we’re now seeing among kids as young as 12 years old.”
“Today’s teens were on the cusp of being the first generation to broadly
reject cigarette smoking but instead have become hooked on nicotine due to
a decade of lax oversight over e-cigarette products,” she added.
*The dangers of e-cigarettes*
E-cigarettes work by heating a pure liquid called e-juice — composed of
flavorings, propylene glycol, glycerin and often nicotine — until it
vaporizes. Popular flavors like tutti frutti, cotton candy and sour gummy
worms have attracted younger users to e-cigarettes, which now often look
like USB devices that are easy to hide and use without detection.
Recent studies have shown that e-cigarettes are a direct gateway to
traditional cigarettes and have a number of health issues beside the
addictive properties of nicotine. A study in the journal Pediatrics, for
example, found five cancer-causing toxins in the urine of 16-year-olds who
inhaled e-cigarette vapor.
“No youth should ever use e-cigs,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in
a video during Tuesday’s announcement. “We must make it crystal clear that
e-cigarette use can expose them to dangerous chemicals that can cause lung
damage when inhaled.”
*Bathrooms are a first for FDA* The new campaign is an extension of the The
Real Cost Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign, which the FDA says is a
nearly $60 million effort funded by fees from the tobacco industry.
The campaign will launch on digital sites and social media platforms
popular with young people, such as YouTube, Facebook and Spotify, with
videos that show disturbing pictures of damaged lungs and zombie-like
students with vaping products glued to their mouths.
In addition, the campaign will place posters in the bathrooms of at least
10,000 high schools across the country, the first time the FDA has placed
ads in bathrooms.
“For the first time ever, we are bringing the campaign into high schools to
the point of contact where they are doing the behavior,” said Kathy Crosby,
who directs the Office of Health Communication and Education at the FDA’s
Center for Tobacco Products.
In addition, she said, the ads will be on school education platforms such
as where teens check their grades or sports scores.
“Flavored vape juice may not be as sweet as it sounds,” one video says as
the strawberries on the screen rot into dry fungus.
“Strangely enough, some students come in here to put crap *into* their
bodies,” one bathroom poster reads.