Onondaga County’s health commissioner and the American Cancer Society say a recent report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General confirms that more teens are using e-cigarettes and likely getting addicted to nicotine. Bill Sherman is Vice President of Government Relations with the cancer society out of Albany. He calls the report a watershed moment that indicates the potential harm of e-cigarettes.
"People who have often cited research from Europe saying that these devices are safe, that they only contain water vapor as aerosol being exhaled is absolutely false."
County health commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta agrees.
"They could be perceived as relatively safer, especially by young individuals because the e-cigarette comes in different flavors," Gupta said. "They try to entice young minds with the bubble gum flavor and pina colada flavor. That makes it seem like a simple thing. It opens the door we believe towards nicotine and addiction."
Gupta says that can have negative effects on the still-developing brains of teens, as well as pregnant mothers and their fetuses.
“We should be feeling really strongly to advocate that this is a very troubling pattern for younger generations to be using e-cigarettes," Gupta said. "They should be monitored, regulated, and there should be more education in the community, as well as conversation among parents, children and health care providers.”
Data from the state department of health show that 7.3 percent of high school students smoke traditional cigarettes, and 10.5 use e-cigarettes. Sherman with the cancer society says even middle school students are attracted to the novelty of the devices.
“I think what you see is that anything new that comes across, whether it's a new mobile device, a new game, or in this case, an electronic nicotine device, kids are naturally drawn to that," Sherman said. "That's why we think it's really important to get the word out that these things are not harmless.”
Sherman says with the surgeon general’s report, the FDA and the CDC now all agree that e-cigarettes should be treated the same as other tobacco products. That means ensuring that children can’t purchase them, and including them under the state’s clean indoor air act.