Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are an emerging challenge for public health. These devices are part of a growing landscape of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that includes many different types of products, such as vape pens and e-hookahs. Despite differences in appearance, these devices are quite similar in function – they create an aerosol that can contain nicotine and other additives. Because the nicotine in these products is typically derived from tobacco, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. However, these proposals have not yet been implemented, and electronic cigarettes remain unregulated at the federal level.
The potential long-term benefits and risks associated with e-cigarette use are not currently known. What is known is that nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote nicotine addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use – making any use of these products among U.S. youth a major concern. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2011, 1 in 20 high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes and 1 in 50 high school students reported using an e-cigarette in past 30 days. Since 2011, use of e-cigarettes among U.S. middle and high school students has increased at an alarming rate. In the 2014 survey, over 1 in 4 U.S. high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes, and more than 1 in 8 had used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. Given these rapid increases in use, implementing proven strategies that reduce the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, may prevent further harm among youth in the United States.
In this session of Public Health Grand Rounds from the CDC, presenters explore the public health challenge of electronic cigarettes, including the surveillance and research gaps that must be addressed to assess the impact of e-cigarettes on the health of our nation.
For more details on this Grand Rounds session and its participants, click here.