E-Cigarette Use Among Youth: A Public Health Threat

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is urging caution about the use and exposure of children and youth to electronic nicotine delivery systems, including electronic cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report this week on the dangers of electronic nicotine delivery systems saying “nicotine-containing products are unsafe for youth.”

Electronic nicotine delivery systems are known by a variety of names, including “vapes,” “e-cigarettes,” “pens” and “e-hookahs.” They come in thousands of flavors and colors. Parents, teachers, coaches, counselors and other youth leaders should be aware of the dangers of these products and that they can be made to look like pens and other small objects that can be hidden in plain sight. 

It is against the law in Georgia to sell or distribute any electronic cigarette to a person who is under the age of 18. As of October 2014, it is against state policy to use these products on any University System of Georgia property. Federal law also prohibits sales of e-cigarettes to minors, restricts sales in vending machines, and requires these products to have a nicotine warning label.

Nicotine is a neurotoxin that can damage the developing adolescent brain by causing permanent changes and contributing to mental health problems and mood disorders as well as other health problems. In addition to nicotine, the aerosol from electronic nicotine delivery products may include formaldehyde, propylene glycol, lead and other toxic chemicals.

Use of electronic nicotine delivery systems or devices, particularly by youth, is associated with other tobacco use.

“We know youth and young adults are trying these unsafe products in increasing numbers. This is an emerging public health crisis that threatens the health of our youth and our progress in reducing dependence on tobacco statewide” said Jean O’Connor, JD, DrPH, director of Chronic Disease Prevention for DPH.

The emissions from e-cigarettes have not been proven to be safe for anyone. Along with the dangers to the developing youth brain, nicotine is a highly addictive chemical for people of all ages that causes hardening of the arteries, which is associated with heart attack and stroke. Pregnant women or women who may become pregnant should especially avoid using or being exposed to nicotine. It can impact fetal development, affecting the brain, nerves and circulatory systems.

Electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as tobacco cessation devices. The only current safe and effective tools to quit nicotine and tobacco products are approved nicotine replacement therapy products, which contain controlled doses of nicotine.

Most people who want to quit tobacco or nicotine need help to end their addiction. Anyone, including teenagers, who needs help quitting tobacco or nicotine, should talk with their doctor. Help quitting tobacco is covered by Georgia Medicaid and other health plans. Or, they can contact the Georgia Tobacco Quitline for free, confidential support:

English: 1-877-270-STOP (877-270-7867)
Spanish: 1-877-2NO-FUME (877-266-3863)
Hearing Impaired: 1-877-777-6534

The Quitline is available 24/7. It is never too late to quit.