US Surgeon General Jerome Adams declares youth e-cigarette use an ‘epidemic’

GP: Juul vaper vapes e-cigarettes
Nick Gregory, a 26-year-old manager, vapes on a JUUL at Botany Bay in Lexington, Ky. Several Lexington high schools are concerned about an increase in student vaping.
Charles Bertram | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams declared e-cigarette use among kids an “epidemic” in the U.S. on Tuesday, pointing to companies like Juul as problematic.

Juul has dominated the e-cigarette market since launching in 2015. It now represents about 75 percent of the market, according to Nielsen data, with much of the growth coming over the past year.

The company says its e-cigarettes are meant for adult smokers who want to continue using nicotine without all the harm that comes with combustible cigarettes. However, Juul has become popular among young people, including teenagers.

“JUUL Labs shares a common goal with the Surgeon General and other federal health regulators — preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products,” the company said in a statement.

Federal data proved anecdotal reports from parents and teachers sounding the alarm about teens using Juul were accurate. The number of high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users, meaning they used the product within the past 30 days, increased 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. That equates to 3.05 million high school students, or 20.8 percent of this group.

The Food and Drug Administration in November said it would limit where most flavored e-cigarettes could be sold, restricting them to adult-only stores or stores that include an adult-only section. Juul said it would remove the bulk of its flavored products from all stores and continue to sell them on its adult-only online shop. It outlined procedures and guidelines for some retailers to follow in order to resume sales.

Meantime, Juul is considering selling a significant minority stake in itself to Big Tobacco company Altria, a move that has already sparked backlash.

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