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December 08, 2016

Surgeon general to young people: Stop vaping

Vape pens are now the most commonly used tobacco product among the nation's youth, forcing the U.S. surgeon general to issue a call to action and push for more regulation.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published Thursday, showed that 1 in 6 high school students in 2015 used vape pens – which are also known as e-cigarettes, vapes or e-hookahs – hooking them onto nicotine at a young age.

“We need parents, teachers, health care providers, and other influencers to help make it clear that e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are not okay for kids to use,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in the report. “Today’s report gives them the facts about how these products can be harmful to young people’s health.”

RELATED STORY: In effort to save Pa.'s vape shops, house committee repeals 40% tax

The liquid flavoring used in vape pens contains nicotine, which the surgeon general warns could lead to young people turning to other tobacco products like cigarettes. Murthy's office warns that there's a strong correlation between e-cig users and cigarette smokers, though more research needs to be done on the e-cigs.

Any amount of nicotine has the power to impair brain development, according to the surgeon general's office.

The report, written and reviewed by more than 150 experts, urges federal officials to regulate vape pens and e-cig marketing that they believe targets young people. They recommend raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products; right now, the age differs from state to state.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of vape pens to minors back in August, something that was predicted to majorly impact Pennsylvania, which previously had no age limit on buying e-cigs or vape pens. 

“Protecting our nation’s youth from the harms of tobacco and nicotine is a top priority for HHS and this Administration. And this report, outlining the harms of e-cigs and providing clear steps to reduce their impact on our kids, is an important step in our fight,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in the report. “We cannot let the enormous progress we’ve made toward a tobacco-free generation be undermined by e-cigarettes and other emerging tobacco products.”