NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Health officials say the epidemic of children using e-cigarettes is one of the biggest health challenges they face, with the CDC and FDA releasing a report noting an alarming surge in youth e-cigarette use Monday (Feb. 11).
According to the report, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users in 2018. The report says that’s a dramatic increase of more than 1.5 million students in just one year.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, former director of the New Orleans Health Department, said young people may not realize just how harmful the products can be, despite being smokeless.
“The concern is that these products typically don’t have tobacco but they do have lots of nicotine and they’re going to develop nicotine addiction in young people and that’s going to lead folks to cigarettes and other tobacco products,” Kanter said.
Health officials say the rise in e-cigarette use in the last year is likely due to the recent popularity of certain types of e-cigarettes, like JUUL. Jeff Weber, co-owner of the Vaping Tiger, said his store has safeguards in place to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teens.
“An 18 and over sign was put on my door before an open sign was put on my door,” Weber said. “Everyone that comes in that looks under the age of 20, we’re going to ask for an id.”
Kanter said the state will soon launch a mass media campaign to educate residents about the dangers of e-cigarette use.
“A lot people don’t realize how addictive these products are, don’t know that they contain nicotine and that they can lead to addiction to cigarettes down the road, we’re trying to spread the message on that,” Kanter said. “I’ll tell you the biggest disheartening fact of this, one of the rare public health victories we’ve had in the past few years is we’ve made progress on smoking levels amongst teens, we’ve actually made progress and decreased the amount of smoking in our young people, and this e-cigarette craze threatens to erase all of that progress.”
FOX 8 reached out to JUUL about the recent report from the CDC and the FDA. In a statement, the e-cigarette company said they do not promote or condone underage use of their products.
Read the full statement below:
We are committed to fighting underage use of vaping products, including JUUL products. Our mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. The data in the CDC study was first released last September and prompted the development of our action plan to combat underage use, which we announced in November. We are moving full steam ahead on implementing our action plan and have stopped the sale of flavored JUULpods to retail stores, enhanced our online age-verification, and are continuously working to remove inappropriate third-party social media content. Under our action plan, we are taking some of the most dramatic and aggressive steps of any other manufacturer in the industry to prevent underage use.
As part of our commitment to combat all underage use, we remain deeply concerned about the proliferation of JUUL-compatible products, which are illegal, marketed in kid- appealing flavors like Cotton Candy, and unlikely to be subject to appropriate quality controls. These products may be sold online and in retail without age verification and are a serious threat to efforts to fight underage e-cigarette use prevalence. In fact, a study conducted by the Centre for Substance Use Research UK, to be presented at the upcoming 2019 SRNT Annual Meeting, found that of all surveyed U.S. adolescents aged 13-17 who reported ever using a JUUL device, a majority reported that they had initiated on a flavor not offered in JUUL products. We’ve alerted FDA to this concern and have requested action within its statutory and regulatory authorities to clear these products from store shelves. The continued availability of these products will undermine the collective efforts we are making to combat underage use.
We strongly support raising the minimum age of purchase for tobacco products to 21 years and restricting sales of flavored e-cigarettes to physical locations with a 21+ restricted distribution system or online with heightened age-verification procedures. We will be a transparent, engaged, and committed partner with FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations in the effort to combat underage use.