TOPEKA – Kansas, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing an increase in the use of e-cigarettes among youth.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), along with its partners, seeks to raise awareness of the potential harm to those who use this product. According to the 2017 Kansas Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in 10 (10.6 percent) high school students in Kansas currently use e-cigarettes. And national data show that e-cigarette use among youth increased from 1.5 percent in 2011, to 11.7 percent in 2017.
E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth.
This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an analysis of retail e-cigarette sales data from 2013-2017. It shows that sales of JUUL, an e-cigarette shaped like a flash drive, grew more than seven-times from 2016 to 2017, and JUUL Laboratories held the greatest share of the U.S. e-cigarette market by December 2017. In September, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the issuance of more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers that illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors.
“Youth use of e-cigarettes is concerning because e-cigarettes often contain nicotine, and nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing brain,” said Dr. Greg Lakin, Chief Medical Officer, KDHE. “JUUL products contain particularly high levels of nicotine.”
The U.S. Surgeon General concluded in a 2016 report that the use of tobacco products containing nicotine among youth, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol that generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than secondhand smoke from cigarettes. However, it can contain many harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals. Because e-cigarettes have risen in popularity so quickly, the long-term effects and dangers of inhaling the aerosol from e-cigarettes are still relatively unknown.
The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) imposed restrictions on tobacco industry marketing, specifically on advertising targeting youth. Exposure to tobacco product advertising has been shown to influence young people to start using tobacco products. E-cigarette companies, however, were not included in and are not restricted by the MSA. E-cigarette companies are using techniques identical to those used by tobacco companies that have been shown to increase use of cigarettes by youth, and research shows they have been successful in their attempts to reach youth.
The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 78.2 percent of middle and high school students had been exposed to e-cigarette advertisements from at least one source.
E-cigarettes are not one of the seven medications approved as a “quit smoking” aid by the FDA. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that there is not enough evidence to recommend e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in adults. Many adult e-cigarette users do not stop smoking cigarettes and instead transition to dual use of both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
In 2016, more than half (56.1 percent) of Kansas adults who currently use e-cigarettes were also current cigarette smokers.
The U.S. Surgeon General concluded in a 2016 report that actions should be taken at the national, tribal, state and local levels to address and prevent e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. One of these recommended actions is engaging youth in comprehensive community and statewide tobacco control programs.
Resist is a statewide youth-led tobacco prevention initiative that seeks to change youth perceptions of tobacco use, reduce youth exposure to tobacco products and reduce tobacco use rates in Kansas. Resist is sponsored in part by KDHE.
For a complete list of resources on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products impacting Kansas youth, please visit http://www.kdheks.gov/tobacco/youth.html.