Chapter 1Introduction, Conclusions, and Historical Background Relative to Disposable Vape - A Disposable Vape Article

Although conventional Disposable Vape smoking has declined markedly over the past several decades among youth and young adults in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS] 2012), there have been substantial increases in the use of emerging tobacco products among these populations in recent years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2015c). Among these increases has been a dramatic rise in electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use among youth and young adults. It is crucial that the progress made in reducing cigarette smoking among youth and young adults not be compromised by the initiation and use of e-cigarettes. This Surgeon General’s report focuses on the history, epidemiology, and health effects of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults; the companies involved with marketing and promoting these products; and existing and proposed public health policies regarding the use of these products by youth and young adults.

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E-cigarettes include a diverse group of devices that allow users to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. E-cigarettes vary widely in design and appearance, but generally operate in a similar manner and are composed of similar components. A key challenge for surveillance of the products and understanding their patterns of use is the diverse and nonstandard nomenclature for the devices (Alexander et al. 2016). These devices are referred to, by the companies themselves, and by consumers, as “e-cigarettes,” “e-cigs,” “cigalikes,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” and “tank systems.” In this report, the term “e-cigarette” is used to represent all of the various products in this rapidly diversifying product category. The terms may differ by geographic region or simply by the prevailing preferences among young users. For example, some refer to all cigarette-shaped products as “e-cigarettes” or as “cigalikes,” and some may refer to the pen-style e-cigarettes as “hookah pens” or “vape pens” (Richtel 2014; Lempert et al. 2016).


Diversity of e-cigarette products. Source: Photo by Mandie Mills, CDC.

This report focuses on research conducted among youth and young adults because of the implications of e-cigarette use in this population, particularly the potential for future public health problems. Understanding e-cigarette use among young persons is critical because previous research suggests that about 9 in 10 adult smokers first try conventional cigarettes during adolescence (USDHHS 2012). Similarly, youth e-cigarette experimentation and use could also extend into adulthood; however, e-cigarette use in this population has not been examined in previous reports of the Surgeon General. The first Surgeon General’s report on the health consequences of smoking was published in 1964; of the subsequent reports, those published in 1994 and 2012 focused solely on youth and young adults (USDHHS 1994, 2012). More recently, the 2012 report documented the evidence regarding tobacco use among youth and young adults, concluding that declines in cigarette smoking had slowed and that decreases in the use of smokeless tobacco had stalled. That report also found that the tobacco industry’s advertising and promotional activities are causal to the onset of smoking in youth and young adults and the continuation of such use as adults (USDHHS 2012). However, the 2012 report was prepared before e-cigarettes were as widely promoted and used in the United States as they are now. Therefore, this 2016 report documents the scientific literature on these new products and their marketing, within the context of youth and young adults. This report also looks to the future by examining the potential impact of e-cigarette use among youth and young adults, while also summarizing the research on current use, health consequences, and marketing as it applies to youth and young adults.

Evidence for this report was gathered from studies that included one or more of three age groups. We defined these age groups to be young adolescents (11–13 years of age), adolescents (14–17 years of age), and young adults (18–24 years of age). Some studies refer to the younger groups more generally as youth. Despite important issues related to e-cigarette use in adult populations, clinical and otherwise (e.g., their potential for use in conventional smoking cessation), that literature will generally not be included in this report unless it also discusses youth and young adults (Farsalinos and Polosa 2014; Franck et al. 2014; Grana et al. 2014).

Given the recency of the research that pertains to e-cigarettes, compared with the decades of research on cigarette smoking, the “precautionary principle” is used to guide actions to address e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. This principle supports intervention to avoid possible health risks when the potential risks remain uncertain and have been as yet partially undefined (Bialous and Sarma 2014; Saitta et al. 2014; Hagopian et al. 2015). Still, the report underscores and draws its conclusions from the known health risks of e-cigarette use in this age group.

Organization of the Report

This chapter presents a brief introduction to this report and includes its major conclusions followed by the conclusions of the chapters, the historical background of e-cigarettes, descriptions of the products, a review of the marketing and promotional activities of e-cigarette companies, and the current status of regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chapter 2 (“Patterns of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Youth and Young Adults”) describes the epidemiology of e-cigarette use, including current use (i.e., past 30 day); ever use; co-occurrence of using e-cigarettes with other tobacco products, like cigarettes; and psychosocial factors associated with using e-cigarettes, relying on data from the most recent nationally representative studies available at the time this report was prepared. Chapter 3 (“Health Effects of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Youth and Young Adults”) documents the evidence related to the health effects of e-cigarette use, including those that are associated with direct aerosol inhalation by users, the indirect health effects of e-cigarette use, other non-aerosol health effects of e-cigarette use, and secondhand exposure to constituents of the aerosol. Chapter 4 (“Activities of the E-Cigarette Companies”) describes e-cigarette companies’ influences on e-cigarette use and considers manufacturing and price; the impact of price on sales and use; the rapid changes in the industry, particularly the e-cigarette companies; and the marketing and promotion of e-cigarettes. Chapter 5 (“E-Cigarette Policy and Practice Implications”) discusses the implications for policy and practice at the national, state, and local levels. The report ends with a Call to Action to stakeholders—including policymakers, public health practitioners and clinicians, researchers, and the public—to work to prevent harms from e-cigarette use and secondhand aerosol exposure among youth and young adults.