My "Mea Culpa" on E-cigarettes

There have been some compelling data in the last several months demonstrating a profound increase in e-cigarette use among the nations and Arizona’s youth.

E-cig use among youth has skyrocketed in the past year at a rate of epidemic proportions. According to data from the CDC and FDA’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, the percentage of high school-age children reporting past 30-day use of e-cigarettes rose by more than 75 percent between 2017 and 2018. Use among middle school-age children also increased nearly 50%.

The uptick in e-cigarette use has led overall tobacco product use to increase by 38% among high school students (to 27.%) and by 29% among middle school students (to 7.2%) in the last year. The results are similar in Arizona.

A few years ago when I was the Director over that the Arizona Department of Health Services I was convinced that e-cigarettes had a chance of providing a net public health benefit by providing active smokers with a new way to quit tobacco while posing a limited public health risk to youth and non tobacco smokers. My staff would often challenge my belief, but I clearly wasn’t listening closely enough.

I turned out to be dreadfully wrong. I didn’t anticipate that vaping among kids would become so popular or that the manufacturers would get so crafty at making them so attractive to kids and to manufacture them in a way that makes them virtually indistinguishable from things like thumb drives.

It’s now clear that e-cigarettes are causing more harm than good- and it’s time to do something about it. The FDA has been taking some actions in the last several months that look promising. I talked with Senator Elect Heather Carter this afternoon and she told me that she’s been working on several approaches to address the epidemic here in Arizona.

Mea Culpa

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