FDA Launches Anti-Vaping Campaign to Target Young People

Electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, have been hailed as an effective means to wean smokers off cigarettes, but some health advocates are expressing concern about the impact on young people. Now, the FDA is launching a campaign to discourage young people from vaping.

The effort, announced on August 8, is part of a wider “The Real Cost” campaign designed to educate American teens on the dangers of using ENDS. The new initiative will begin this fall with a larger campaign designed to launch in 2018.

This announcement serves as somewhat of a landmark, as it is the first time that the FDA has specifically used public health messaging to target young people on the risks of e-cigarettes and ENDS.

“While we pursue a policy that focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products, we will also continue to work vigorously to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of kids,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb explained in a press release . “Educating youth about the dangers of tobacco products has been a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by these products. Including e-cigarettes and other ENDS products in our prevention work not only makes sense, it reflects the troubling reality that they are the most commonly-used tobacco product among youth.”

There is evidence to show that ENDS use can support smokers who seek to quit traditional cigarettes, or at least in their actual cigarette habit. Other studies suggest that quitters who transition to ENDS may also be more likely to quit smoking altogether in the long term. But considering that ENDS are a relatively new item, some researchers dispute these claims.

Certainly, the power of ENDS to cut lung cancer rates – the most common kinds of lung cancer, that is —  has been one of the products’ main appeals. But ENDS remains hotly contested even among anti-smoking advocates and health experts — and not just in cases of delivery systems malfunction that present a toxicity risk.

After all, ENDS are not without their health concerns. While these systems are arguably less harmful than cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk, some research has shown that they may increase the risk of some throat cancers. In addition, the passive smoking risk associated with ENDS is not yet understood, and the long term health impacts have yet to be studied.

Critics point out that while ENDS do not appear to be a youth gateway to smoking cigarettes, the variety of flavors available — seemingly designed to appeal to children — is reminiscent of how tobacco companies first marketed cigarettes and targeted what they rather horrifically termed “early” or “young” adopters.

Indeed, as the FDA notes above, ENDS have now replaced cigarettes as the most popular nicotine delivery choice among young people. One of the most persuasive criticisms of ENDS is that they have served to normalize nicotine use even though there is no “safe” way to consume the substance or the raft of other chemicals – formaldehyde, for one — that may be released in dangerous amounts when used in high-voltage devices.

This push, some campaigners say, has actually undercut — and even risks reversing – years of work to sway public opinion against cigarettes. Vaping has now become a popular trend, and the paraphernalia and accessories that one can purchase only serves to underscore how rapidly the market has latched onto ENDS. More than just a cigarette-quitting aid, the devices now embody a lifestyle choice.

ENDS may be one tool for transitioning people to a less damaging alternative — and certainly many smokers say it has helped them scale back or even quit smoking cigarettes altogether. But as scientists have tried to stress: ENDS are not, nor can they ever be, a “healthy” or acceptable habit. They are, at best, the lesser of two evils, and the ultimate goal should be eliminating use of both cigarette and ENDS.

The FDA’s new education drive, then, seems a necessary effort as the administration attempts to drive down the two million or so young people who were using ENDS by the end of 2016. Using existing regulations, the FDA has been able to issue nearly six and a half thousand warning letters to brick-and-mortar stores, warning them against selling e-cigarettes to minors. And the agency continues to track wider uptake among middle to high school aged youth.

Preventing the established negative long-term effects of early nicotine use isn’t just good policy, it’s vital for the nation’s health.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

24 comments

Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE3 months ago

I had to ask my daughter what is a vape?

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JT S
JT Smith3 months ago

But mom, all the cool kids are doing it!

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David C
David C3 months ago

thanks

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

It's a teenage trend...

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Once again US government caving in to corporations. Theses are banned in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Cambodia, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Venezuela. The EU countries have strict restrictions and would have banned except the concentrated lobbying prevented the ban if not the restrictions while research continues. The preliminary findings are not good so I would imagine people will have to start dying before anyone stands up in the US and pushes back at these corporations.

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Sue H
Sue H3 months ago

Good. Raising awareness is an important step.

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Henry M
Henry M3 months ago

My town has many vape places, too. Hope someone can stop people wreaking their health.

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Anne Moran
Anne M3 months ago

There are so many vap shops around, and pot shops, you'd think it was already legal.. - It will be July 1 2018,, nation-wide,, that's going to be a trip, in more ways than one !!

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Colin C
Colin Clauscen3 months ago

Young people should not smoke or vape but vaping has helped many many people quit smoking

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Julie D
Julie D3 months ago

Vaping helped me to quit smoking cigarettes. Extremely hard habit to quit, some medical sources say it is a hard a quitting heroin. I was able to start out with a lower amount of nicotine in the vape fluid than the cigs I was smoking, and gradually decrease it until there is now no nicotine. Part of the addiction to cigarettes is the enjoyment of the ritual of smoking, which is hard for non smokers to understand but it is just as addicting as the nicotine. With nicotine free smoking one can still enjoy the ritual with far less harm. It is not perfect, but it is a huge improvement over smoking cigarettes. Doctors very commonly suggest to their patients who smoke to try to switch to vaping as they know it is a better alternative even if not perfect. It is not absurd to try to do something better.

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