The U.S. surgeon general is warning against the use of e-cigarettes, declaring Tuesday that any "use among young people is unsafe" and telling parents to be on the lookout for vaping devices that look like computer flash drives.
While e-cigarettes might help some adult smokers quit using the more risky combustible tobacco cigarettes, they're of no benefit at all to teens, the FDA and Adams say.
For young people, "nicotine is risky and it can have negative health effects", Mr. Adams said in an interview. Middle school-age children's use also increased almost 50 percent. Analysts now estimate the company controls more than 75 percent of the United States e-cigarette market.
The surgeon general said each Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
He added: "E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless". The flavors remain available via age-restricted online sales.
Nicotine is not only extremely addictive, but it is risky in its own right. However, we do know the nicotine in e-cigarettes is highly addictive and could cause life-long problems. But as Surgeon General, he takes on the official role as the nation's top doctor and adviser on health matters.
As e-cigarrettes become more popular among teens and worries rise about a new generation that could become hooked on nicotine, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams laid out strategies to combat the crisis and took aim at Juul, which takes in more than 70 percent of sales.
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Parents need to talk to their children about the dangers of vaping and model healthy behavior, Adams said.
E-cigarettes are handheld devices that induce the feeling of smoking by delivering nicotine, flavorings and other additives to the user through an inhaled aerosol. Since then, studies have shown a sharp uptick among young people using the devices and companies that sell the liquid nicotine in flavors that appeal to teens.
The FDA has proposed a federal age limit of 18 to buy e-cigarette products.
One college is already acting. Since Adams frames bans on indoor vaping as a way to discourage underage consumption, it's clear that his real goal is not to protect bystanders from imaginary risks but to make e-cigarette use less convenient, which is bound to have an impact on adult vapers who would otherwise be smoking.
Federal officials are scrambling to reverse a recent explosion in teen vaping that public health officials fear could undermine decades of declines in tobacco use.
Maggie Fox is a senior writer for NBC News and TODAY, covering health policy, science, medical treatments and disease.