In a press release the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that the agency would focus on a new public health education campaign that would discourage the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) by kids. The campaign is titled “The Real Cost”.
Vaping device. Image Credit: Hurricanehank / Shutterstock
This new campaign from FDA would be strategic towards curbing and stopping the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents. Teenagers would be sent messages and information about the dangers involved in usage of these e-cigarettes. The text message campaign would start this year in the fall while the full scale of the campaign would begin next year says the release. The campaign would include online videos to educate kids about the dangers of using e-cigarettes or other ENDS. The cravings for nicotine and how it can rewire the brain to lead to addiction later in life would be explained in these videos.
The agency like never before is focussing on regulation and reduction of nicotine and tobacco use across different age groups. This new campaign is one part of those efforts. The agency plans to protect the youth by informing them about the ills of using tobacco products and dissuade them from taking up. While similar programmes against tobacco and nicotine containing products have been in place, this is the first time that the FDA is launching a campaign to specifically target the youth and adolescents using public health education to curb the use of e-cigarettes or other ENDS.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the campaign would focus on informing the youth and adolescents about the role of nicotine is keeping the addition going. These nicotine substitutes may help smokers of traditional combustible cigarettes or tobacco products to quit and move to less harmful products if they cannot quit. However Gottleib emphasized that at the agency would work “vigorously” to keep all such products “out of the hands of kids”. He explained that these e-cigarettes and ENDS are the most common agents that are used by adolescents and youth these days and the agency would educate them about the harms these could cause. Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products said that the agency would have a multi-pronged effort at curbing this problem and protecting kids from using nicotine containing products.
Reports have shown that over 2 million middle school and high school kids are presently using e-cigarettes and ENDS as seen at the end of 2016. Also at present nearly half of the adolescents who are tobacco users were users of two or more tobacco products the year before. In these young brains, nicotine seems to have a more detrimental effect than among adults, studies have shown. It rewires the young brains in such a manner that these kids are more susceptible to nicotine addiction as they grow up.
The agency has put this educational campaign against e-cigarettes and other ENDS at the centre of all ifs health efforts. The policy would aim both at regulating the tobacco products and encouraging the development of products that are less harmful than combustible cigarettes. However the approach focusses majorly towards reducing the access of these more appealing nicotine products for the youth and teenagers. All regulations that apply to these products are to remain in place the agency said. The regulations include banning the sale of tobacco products to persons under age 18 and requiring age verification by photo ID. Free sample distribution is also banned. The FDA has sent out over 6400 warning letters since August 2016 to online retailers for selling e-cigarettes to minors.
The campaign was initially launched in February 2014 and since then it has been proven to be a successful one leading to prevention of nearly 350,000 youth aged 11 to 18 nationwide from initiating smoking from 2014 to 2016. In the United States nearly 2,500 adolescents below the age of 18 years try their first cigarette each day making this a major public health problem.