RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Releasing a report Thursday on what he calls an emerging health threat to the nation’s youth, the U.S Surgeon General says he’s worried e-cigs have the potential to create a whole new generation of kids addicted to nicotine.
“They’re promoted to youth with flavors and colors and packaging and everything else in the hopes that those kids will become addicted to nicotine and will be addicted to nicotine for the rest of their lives,” said pediatrician Dr. David Arkin.
Arkin says there are a lot of unknowns about the health effects of e-cigs. He says while he believes it can help people already smoking he’s concerned it could lead kids to smoking tobacco.
“If you’re already smoking cigarettes I think this is a safer alternative,” said Arkin. He went on to say “The e-cigarettes are a gateway for teenagers to get into cigarettes and become addicted to nicotine before they’ve even smoked a single cigarette.”
“There’s really not a ton of evidence out there to support this being a gateway to tobacco products,” said Chip Anderson with the Virginia Smoke-Free Association.
“It’s been said that this industry can save a billion lives,” said Anderson.
Anderson says he believes e-cigs is helping smokers and former smokers quit.
“Personally I have tried every method there has ever been put out to stop smoking. I smoked for 15 years. Vaping was the only thing that helped me get off tobacco products,” said Anderson.
He says if the government starts cracking down on the industry, it will hurt not help the health of the nation.
“We’re not just doing small business a disservice, we’re doing the health of the entire country a disservice,” said Anderson.
Meanwhile, E-cig use is up among teens. Federal figures show that last year, 16 percent of high school students reported at least some use of e-cigarettes, even some who’ve never smoked a conventional cigarette.