Science

E-cigarettes now a public health threat, according to Surgeon General

10 Dec 2016 | By Mansi Motwani
Potential effects of e-cigarettes

A new report released by the Surgeon General of the United States includes e-cigarettes as a major health threat to the public.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, "E-cigarettes went from being rare in 2010 to being the most common tobacco product used by our nation's youth."

Advocates of e-cigarettes however consider them a healthier alternative to conventional cigarette smoking.

In context: Potential effects of e-cigarettes

BackgroundSurgeon General of the United States

The Surgeon General of the United States is the operational head of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC).

He/She is the official spokesperson on public health matters in the federal government of the United States.

The Surgeon General is nominated by the United States President and then confirmed by the Senate.

He/She serves a four-year term of office.

ProfileWho is Vivek Murthy?

Vivek H. Murthy is the 19th Surgeon General of the United States.

He is the first surgeon of Indian descent and the youngest active duty flag officer.

Murthy was nominated by President Obama for the post of United States Surgeon General in November 2013 and acquired broad support from over 100 medical and public health organizations in the United States for the same.

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10 Dec 2016E-cigarettes now a public health threat, according to Surgeon General

What are e-cigarettes?

InformationWhat are e-cigarettes?

An alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into an aerosol inhaled by the user.

Unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tar or other chemicals formed by the combustion of tobacco which ultimately cause fatal tobacco-related diseases.

With flavours like cotton candy and gummy bears, e-cigarettes are widely enjoyed

They are commonly known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, vape pens, mods, tank systems etc.

DetailsWhat did the report say?

Murthy's report listed harmful ingredients that e-cigarettes contain such as diacetyls (chemical linked to serious lung disease) and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead.

According to him, if e-cigarettes encourage the use of other tobacco products, "then we are going to be moving backward instead of forward."

He mentioned that while more research is needed into the effects of e-cigarettes, they aren't harmless.

NumbersE-cigarette usage statistics

According to federal figures, in 2015, 16% of high school students who had never smoked a conventional cigarette, reported some usage of e-cigarettes.

Health officials estimate that about 3 million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes.

Among middle and high school students, usage of e-cigarettes has more than tripled from the year 2011 and has more than doubled in 2013 to 2014.

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CautionSurgeon Murthy warns against excessive usage

Dr. Murthy remarked that compared to older adults, the brains of youth and young adults are more vulnerable to nicotine exposure and its consequences.

"The growing use of e-cigarettes by American teens has the potential to create a whole new generation of kids addicted to nicotine," he warned.

He called for immediate federal, state and local action like including e-cigarettes in smoking bans.