E-cigs considered emerging public health threat, surgeon general report says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The U.S. Surgeon General's Office released an unprecedented report addressing e-cigarette use among youth, declaring it an emerging public health threat.

Vaping among kids and teens jumped 900 percent in the past few years.

Tyra Nicolay, 16, started using e-cigarettes as a high school freshman.

"We loved trying flavors that reminded us of ice cream and smoothies. I did not know that e-cigarettes contained nicotine or that they could be addictive or harmful," Nicolay said.

A recent USC study found 38 percent of 10th graders have admitted to vaping.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called e-cigarette use among young people a dangerous, emerging epidemic.

"The message from the report is clear: nicotine-containing products in any form - including e-cigarettes - are not safe for youth," he said

The report also confirms the aerosol from e-cigarettes is not harmless. Murthy cited research from USC'S Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory, or HEAL.

"What we've shown is that teens who start smoking e-cigs are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes," said Dr. Adam Leventhal, director of USC's HEAL.

The concern for e-cigs is highest among children and young people because the brain continues to develop until the age of 25.

Researchers said nicotine can have a direct effect on the pre-frontal cortex.

"(It) is a really critical area of the brain to help promote impulse control, executive function, executive decision making," Leventhal said.

In a statement, the Vapor Technology Association responded by saying:

"What the Surgeon General does not acknowledge with this announcement are the millions of adult Americans who rely on vapor products to switch away from smoking deadly cigarettes."

When it comes to teens, Leventhal supports the surgeon general's efforts, especially when it comes to prohibiting the marketing of e-cigs to youth.

"It can be addictive. I would tell parents watch out for e-cigs," Leventhal said.

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