Tennessee health officials have grown increasingly concerned over the past year about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and especially the impact of vaping on children and teens.
The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) issued its first e-cigarette health advisory five years ago. Since then, “accumulating evidence has increased the level of concern regarding the risks posed by these products to the health of all persons involved, especially children,” the agency says in its most recent advisory.
The past year has been a rough one for e-cigarette manufacturers and the vaping industry in general. Armed with evidence showing vaping has become an epidemic among U.S. teens, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a series of bold actions regulators are poised to take to beat down the number of teens becoming addicted to nicotine.
Prohibiting the marketing of e-cigarette products to children and teens and restricting the sale of flavored nicotine products are a couple of measures the FDA has taken to make it more difficult for kids to start vaping.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the e-cigarette industry promotes its products as smoking-cessation devices, yet the “safety and efficacy of these products has not been demonstrated.” The agency also says that e-cigarettes do not provide a “clear benefit over the numerous other [FDA]-approved products available to smokers who would like to end their use of tobacco.”
Tennessee health officials warn that nicotine is highly addictive and dangerous to the developing brain. Nearly 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before they were 18.
“There is now substantial evidence that use of [e-cigarettes] by youth places them at increased risk of becoming future smokers of combustible products,” such as conventional tobacco cigarettes, the TDH said.
In Tennessee, 40 percent of high school students have used an e-cigarette or other vaping devices, and 11.5 percent reported that they continue to vape.
As for adults who use e-cigarettes to stop smoking regular cigarettes, the TDH points to evidence that those who use e-cigarettes as aids to quit smoking may be less likely to quit using tobacco than those who do not use e-cigarettes.
And while e-cigarettes are often touted as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco, research has shown that e-cigarettes and other vaping products “expose users and bystanders to harmful chemicals and metals,” unlike FDA-approved smoking cessation products, the TDH says.