Focus area: Family
Electronic cigarette use in youths: a position statement of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies
Nicotine in electronic cigarettes poses a great threat to youth and we must protect them from it.
Tobacco dependence starts in childhood: close to 90% of current cigarette smokers start before their 18th birthday. Children and adolescents are highly susceptible to nicotine addiction, which affects their brain development, even in those who smoke infrequently. A new threat to the health of children and adolescents has been raised from the spread of electronic cigarettes, the most commonly used tobacco product among adolescents. The main reason for this is that electronic cigarettes are wrongly considered harmless. However, despite the quantity of potentially harmful ingredients in electronic cigarettes is significantly lower than combustible cigarettes, electronic cigarettes may contain nicotine, ultrafine particulates, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and flavourants which could be toxic and which amount has not been standardized. In addition, quality control processes used to manufacture these products can be inconsistent. Exposure to aerosol extracts injures airway epithelial cells and causes DNA damage in human oral and lung cells in vitro. In vivo studies have shown an association with chronic or recurrent respiratory symptoms, even in adolescents. Another threat comes is that “vaping” is associated with increased combustible cigarette smoking among youths. In the last position statement the FIRS recommends that electronic cigarettes be regulated as tobacco products; sale of electronic cigarettes should be barred to youths worldwide; flavouring should be prohibited and advertising accessible by youths be banned. Finally, research on the health effects of electronic cigarettes and surveillance of use across different countries are advised.