New position paper on e-cigarettes and youth released by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies [FIRS]

FIRS -- a consortium of nine international lung health and respiratory organisations, including The Union – have today launched a new position paper in the European Respiratory Journal that warns about the impact of electronic cigarette use among young people.

“Much remains unknown about the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use. What is clear is that young people are being targeted with powerful marketing campaigns promoting these products. As the public health community we need to stand together to prevent young people becoming nicotine addicted and get strong policies in place, internationally, to help achieve this. The new FIRS position paper urges such action, and quickly,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of the Department of Tobacco Control, The Union.

Over the past decade, e-cigarette use in young people has spiked in many countries. Data collected for the US National Youth Tobacco Survey, showed that over 1.6 million high school students and 500,000 middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2015, 10 times the number of reported users four years earlier. Powerful marketing campaigns are a driving force behind experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people. In a study of 600 British children, aged 11 to 16, e-cigarette advertising was shown to increase their appeal and the likelihood study participants would try vaping.

The paper was co-authored by Thomas Ferkol MD, Alexis Hartmann professor of paediatrics and professor of cell biology and physiology at Washington University in St. Louis, USA. He said: “Until recently, the risks of e-cigarettes and their rising popularity with children and adolescents were under-recognised or ignored. We wrote this statement to address growing public health concerns over e-cigarette use among youths.

“Product design, flavours, marketing, and perception of safety and acceptability have increased the appeal of e-cigarettes to young people. These products are ‘normalising’ smoking and leading to new generations addicted to nicotine.” 

The FIRS paper makes several recommendations to protect young people from nicotine addiction, including a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to young people, a ban on misleading health claims, and vitally – a call for more research on the scope and health threats of e-cigarettes on young people around the world.

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies is a collaborative of nine organisations from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia that was created to promote lung health worldwide.