Press Room

State and Territorial Health Leaders Praise Surgeon General’s Report on E-cigarettes

ARLINGTON, VA (Dec. 12, 2016) The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) praises U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy for issuing a first ever report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, and calls on local, state, and national partners to redouble efforts to prevent tobacco use and support tobacco cessation efforts nationwide.

The new report indicates a dramatic rise in e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes in 2014. Emerging data suggests that youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use combustible tobacco products. ASTHO members have a strong history of supporting programs that improve tobacco prevention and control efforts in their states, and this new report reiterates that tobacco use, in any form and at any age, is harmful to our health.

“The report’s main message, that there is no acceptable level of nicotine when it comes to our children, is a strong one and one that I support as a physician, father, and champion for health in my state. That's why in Vermont we added e-cigarettes to the tobacco products restricted under our Clean Indoor Air Act,” says Harry Chen, MD, chair of ASTHO’s Prevention Policy Committee and commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health. “While there is still a lot we do not know about e-cigarettes, we do know that vaping products contain chemicals that could cause harm, especially in young people. Our research on the health effects of smoking clearly shows that nicotine, regardless of how it is delivered, is addictive and can harm the developing brain.”

ASTHO President and Chief Medical Officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Jay Butler, MD, states that “our nation’s state and territorial health leaders are committed to aggressive efforts to reduce all tobacco use and address the issues posed by electronic cigarettes. This is an area where health, policy, and science can converge to prevent harm and potentially prevent addiction and substance misuse among our youth.”

While all state and territorial public health agencies have experience addressing tobacco control and prevention, e-cigarettes pose new challenges to health leaders. “We are concerned about tobacco-attributable health disparities, tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, and the limited regulation and lack of definitive research on e-cigarettes and their components,” says ASTHO’s Executive Director Michael Fraser, PhD. “To this end, we support further investment in prevention efforts and research to inform local, state, and national policymakers. I think the surgeon general’s report is going to focus more attention on the unique issues raised by e-cigarettes and the need for additional policy work and investment at the state and national level to promote healthy behaviors among our nation’s young people.”

ASTHO is currently updating its position statement on tobacco prevention and control to include the public health consequences of e-cigarettes and related vaping devices.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice.

Call ASTHO's main phone line at (202) 371-9090 or contact Jane Esworthy jesworthy@astho.org (571) 318-5431. Follow us on Twitter.