America is currently battling numerous epidemics for opioids, obesity, and heart disease. The U.S. Surgeon General recently made an alarming announcement to parents about a new threat to our nation’s youth: the use of e-cigarettes. However, many argue that the Surgeon General lacks scientific evidence to back his statements. What are the facts?
According to Medical News Today, electronic cigarettes, also known as vape pens, are battery-operated devices that expel vaporized solutions, which may or may not contain nicotine, that the user inhales. Nicotine is the primary psychoactive chemical found in cigarettes, causing the addictive sensations experienced by smokers, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
…increase susceptibility of addiction to drugs.
Vape pens have become increasingly popular among U.S. youth, with one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers reporting vaping this year. Given this data, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently announced that the practice has become an epidemic and “any e-cigarette use among young people is unsafe.”
In his announcement, Adams notes that the nicotine inhaled may be detrimental to the brain development of teen smokers. He further explains that recreational use may result in adverse effects to attention, learning, and memory and increase susceptibility of addiction to drugs.
Further dangers have also been reported. The peer-reviewed Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology released a large-scale report of over 90 scientific publications in which the substance was found to pose damaging effects to the cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and reproductive systems. It was also found to promote cancerous tumor growth and increase the risk of diabetes.
As reported by the CDC, although scientific data supports that nicotine can pose dangers to the adolescent brain, there are limitations to the current body of knowledge. Vape pens contain nicotine in varying concentrations, with some carrying none at all. The amounts in which the chemical becomes damaging to humans is unclear. Thus, future studies are warranted to test the impact of varying quantities found in e-cigarettes.
Furthermore, experiments, such as those reviewed by the Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, investigating the impact of the chemical were frequently conducted on animal models. Numerous scientists warn that animal models often fall short of yielding accurate results to humans. Thus, individuals should be hesitant to generalize findings to the human population until further data is acquired.
Nevertheless, some politicians have acted to restrict accessibility of e-cigarettes despite a lack of sufficient evidence on the health effects. Liberty Nation’s Andrew Moran reported last year that Mayor Bill De Blasio (D-NY) limited the number of vendors that are licensed to sell vape pens and prohibited e-cig use from apartment common areas.
Some studies have displayed possible benefits of nicotine. The substance is believed to aid patients struggling with certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, or depression, according to the peer-reviewed Biology – Open Access Journal. Some studies have found improvements to mood, motor skills, and memory among such patients following intake of the chemical.
The journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience also explains that smoking is correlated with a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The researchers believe that nicotine may be responsible for this association.
The U.S. Surgeon General warns parents that e-cigarette use among youth has become an epidemic. The public should remain skeptical of the notice, since the concentration in which the chemical poses danger is unknown. However, educating the nation’s youth on the current scientific literature is essential for preventing potential threats posed by nicotine intake. As vaping continues to increase in popularity, further research is warranted to examine the devices expelling varying quantities of the substance and their impact on public health.