The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued sweeping recommendations in an attempt to curb a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine – in the form of e-cigarettes. While tobacco use has declined since the 1970s, the advent of e-cigarettes has meant that teenagers are now becoming addicted to a completely new product which has the potential to derail previous extensive efforts to protect young people from the dangers of tobacco.
The AAP now recommends the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should be increased to age 21 nationwide. Dr Karen M Wilson, chair of the AAP section on Tobacco Control, said: “Tobacco use continues to be a major health threat to children, adolescents and adults. The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine, which is why the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents is so alarming and dangerous to their long-term health.”
The AAP recommendations are contained in three policy statements announced on Monday, Oct. 26 and published simultaneously in Pediatrics. The statements outline recommendations for public policy changes, clinical guidance for physicians to counsel families on reducing exposure and dependence on tobacco, and recommendations for the regulation of e-cigarettes. A companion technical report provides a review of the scientific evidence that supports the recommendations.
Regarding e-cigarettes, their policy points to the complete lack of scientific evidence that supports the efficacy or safety of e-cigarettes as a tobacco dependence treatment product. According to the AAP, e-cigarette use among teens is associated with a higher likelihood of using regular tobacco and lower rates of smoking cessation.
They conclude in their policy statement: “Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended. Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children's health.”