Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use has grown rapidly among teens in the past few years.
It may seem encouraging that this rise coincides with a drop in the use of tobacco products among kids. But e-cigarettes may not be harmless.
The truth is that we have very limited information on e-cigarettes. Their long-term impacts remain unknown, and we don't yet have enough data to support them as a healthy option.
E-cigarettes may create new tobacco users
Because e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA, manufacturers don't have to report their ingredients. Therefore, it's unclear what is used to flavor many of these products and what health risks might be linked to those chemicals.
E-cigarettes are available in thousands of flavors, such as bubblegum, cinnamon roll and peppermint. This has likely contributed to the increased use in young non-smokers. Most adult smokers started their habits as kids, and e-cigarettes may create a new generation of tobacco users.
It's crucial to remember that e-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Use of nicotine by young people can damage developing minds and may lead to future tobacco addiction. Tobacco has been linked to several types of cancer, including lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, oral cancers and bladder cancer.
Banning sale of e-cigarettes to minors protects youth
Based on these concerns, MD Anderson is pleased that Texas has taken a major step to ensure the future health of our youth. Measures passed recently would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. If signed by the governor, Texas will join 42 other states with similar laws.
"We are delighted the Texas Legislature stepped forward to restrict sales of e-cigarettes to minors," says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and division head of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and co-lead of the Cancer Prevention and Control Platform for our Moon Shots Program. "We think this is an appropriate measure aimed at protecting the health of our young people."
Through our EndTobacco program, the Cancer Prevention & Control Platform of MD Anderson Cancer Center has served as a resource for policy makers in these recent discussions, and we strongly encourage federal regulation of e-cigarettes by the FDA. This program will continue to recommend actions that MD Anderson may take to end tobacco use through policy, education and community-based clinical services.