AAFP, Others Applaud Surgeon General's Report on E-Cigarettes

Academy Calls on Members to Counsel Patients on Health Risks

December 12, 2016 03:45 pm News Staff

CDC data(www.cdc.gov) show that in 2015, about one in six high-school students reported having used an e-cigarette in the past month. Similarly, one in four reported having used any tobacco product during the preceding 30 days.

To raise public awareness of this burgeoning public health threat and help stub out this alarming trend among youth and young adults, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., last week released E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General.(e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov)

Furthermore, the surgeon general's office, in conjunction with the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, created an interactive website(e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov) -- dubbed Know the Risks: E-Cigarettes & Young People -- that features key information from the report and is targeted to parents and adult influencers of youth.

In response, the AAFP joined the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the AMA in expressing support for the report.

Story Highlights
  • On Dec. 8, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., released E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General.
  • The AAFP joined the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the AMA in expressing support for the report.
  • The joint statement from the AAFP and other medical organizations said they agreed with the surgeon general's assertion that physicians should educate patients during visits about the risks of use of and exposure to e-cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products.

"As leading medical organizations representing, collectively, 630,000 physicians across the country, we join together today to applaud Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., for issuing the first comprehensive federal government review of the public health impact of e-cigarettes on youth and young adults in the United States," said a joint statement from the five medical organizations.

The report found that although nicotine is a highly addictive drug at any age, youth and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the long-term consequences of exposing the brain to nicotine, and it concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe. The report also found that secondhand aerosol exhaled by e-cigarette users can expose others to potentially harmful chemicals.

"All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults," said Murthy in a Dec. 8 news release.(www.hhs.gov) "Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people."

Key Conclusions From The Report

The report, which was written and reviewed by more than 150 experts, uses the term "e-cigarette" to represent the diverse offerings in this rapidly expanding product category, which also are referred to by both their manufacturers and consumers as "e-cigs," "cigalikes," "e-hookahs," "mods," "vape pens," "vapes" and "tank systems."

Among conclusions presented in the report are the following:

  • E-cigarettes are a rapidly emerging and diversified class of products that typically deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives to users via inhaled aerosol.
  • E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.
  • E-cigarette use is strongly associated with use of other nicotine-containing products by youth and young adults, including combustible tobacco products.
  • E-cigarettes are marketed by promoting their diverse flavors and using a wide variety of media channels and approaches that have been used in the past to market conventional tobacco products to youth and young adults.
  • Action at the national, state and local levels can reduce youth and young adult use of e-cigarettes.

Call to Action for Family Physicians

The joint statement from the AAFP and other medical organizations said they agreed with the report's assertion that physicians should educate patients during visits about the risks of use of and exposure to e-cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products.

"We call on our physician members to counsel parents and caregivers who smoke about the risks of e-cigarette use and secondhand smoke exposure, urge them not to use any tobacco products around children, and encourage them to quit," said the groups in their statement.

"We also call on our physician members to provide advice to all children and adolescents on the dangers of tobacco use before they experiment with smoking, and to discuss the poisoning risks associated with the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes, which is highly potent, extremely toxic and is marketed in appealing flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy."

Story Continues Below

The groups said nicotine exposure harms children from conception onward, as the surgeon general's report recognized, and e-cigarettes are a growing threat to health and development across the lifespan.

"As leaders of organizations representing physicians in all fields of medicine, we are our patients' strongest advocates and stand ready to help protect them from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes," said the statement.

Murthy offered his own call to action in the news release, saying: "We need parents, teachers, health care providers and other influencers to help make it clear that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are not okay for kids to use.

"Today's report gives them the facts about how these products can be harmful to young people's health."

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