More teens are hooked to vaping, the alternative to smoking tobacco, that the U.S. FDA said it has become an epidemic at an alarming state.
A National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted between 2011 and 2015 showed a total increase of 900 percent in the use of electronic cigarettes among high school students.
The report published by the Office of the Surgeon General said vaping has become a national epidemic, as it has surpassed statistics on the use of other tobacco products such as cigars, chewables, and hookahs.
This translates to approximately 1.7 million high school students and 500,000 middle school students who have used vape products within a 30-day period.
"No kid should be using any tobacco product," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "We're going to be taking some enforcement actions very soon to target companies that we think are marketing products in ways that they're deliberately appealing to kids."
Different Day, Different Flavors
Vape products are easy to sell to the youth especially that it is packaged in different flavors such as sour gummy, chocolate, and cotton candy.
Joseph Allen, an assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that the presence of artificial flavoring in e-cigarettes has become appealing to kids. The U.S. General Surgeon's 2016 report coincided with a study published the same year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, saying that exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes is the gateway toward the renormalization of smoking.
"There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults," reported the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
Smoking at an earlier age is also like hitting two birds with one stone. Not only that it poses greater risks of cardiorespiratory illnesses, but those who have early exposure to nicotine are also more likely to get addicted until they become adults.
A related study on rodents performed by Dr. John Dani, chair of neuroscience at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that younger rats that are exposed to nicotine have their neurotransmitters altered for life.
These neurotransmitters are responsible for sending stress signals and recognizing reward. When stressed rats were given nicotine, it is their bodies' response to the stimuli. These signals are later perceived as rewards when given routinely.
Dani said that the team's research requires further investigation as it relates to human beings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified ethnic disparities in the use of e-cigarettes. In a media briefing release in April 2015, former CDC director Tom Frieden said that common users of vaping products are non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanics from other race except blacks.
"We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it's an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar," said Frieden. "Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use."