The increased popularity of electronic cigarettes has gotten the attention of the FDA, which just launched a national campaign aimed at discouraging their use.
In 2018 just four percent of high schoolers had smoked tobacco cigarettes; in contrast, more than 40 percent of high schoolers have admitted to using e-cigs. Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Mitch Zeller, said The Real Cost campaign points out potential health risks.
“These products contain nicotine, and nicotine can rewire their brains. These products can contain formaldehyde, metal particles in the vapor, in the aerosol. It is not cost free. It is not risk free,” said Zeller.
The campaign will target about 10.7 million youths from ages 12 to 17. With such a focus on teenagers, the FDA had to find a platform that will get the message across. Zeller said the campaign will rely on social media and signs at schools.
“We’ll be able to shoot our messages to them while they’re consuming social media on school grounds. So it’s not a TV campaign, it’s not a radio campaign – it’s digital, social, online, internet and literally in high school bathrooms,” said Zeller.
Chris Owens is Director of the Central New York Center for Tobacco Health at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Owens said schools have been trying to take the popular Juul devices from students for months, but haven’t had much success.
"I believe from other conversations I’ve had that schools are trying to get ahead of this and trying to enforce the policy in a meaningful way. It’s just very difficult with how concealable the Juuls are,” said Owens.
The FDA and Zeller believe that in order to stop the e-cigarette epidemic they need to take on the manufacturers and retailers selling the products to teens.
“Unfortunately, there are retailers who are illegally selling e-cigarettes to minors. In September we announced that as part of this blitz we found over 1,300 illegal sales of just e-cigarettes to minors in our enforcement program between June and August,” said Zeller.
Addiction help and information on the dangers of e-cigarettes can be found at therealcost.gov.