It is not a campaign, it is a war the FDA is waging against teen vaping

The US FDA is campaigning against the use of nicotine products by youth and is waging a war against the e-cigarette. The Agency however neglects that e-cigarettes are only one of the many sources of nicotine; it severely condemns what appears to be the less nocive one.


Which may damage adolescent’s brain development, e-cigarette use or nicotine?

In a short clip the FDA claims that nicotine can harm teens. The message is clear: using an e-cigarette may damage adolescent’s brain development.

Dr Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General also declares “your kids are not an experiment”. And on this point, Dr Murthy is right because no adolescent human has been involved in clinical studies with nicotine. The animal model used by researchers and on which Surgeon General Murthy elaborates his conclusions is the rodent [1].

The last US Surgeon General report was limpid on the fact that the e-cigarette shouldn’t be used by teenagers. Nobody seems to contradict scientific conclusions that the use of any nicotine products may also have negative effects on adolescent humans [2] but everyone wonders why this is put to question right now.

There was a time when more than one-third high school seniors smoked

Cigarettes: Trends in 30-Day Use, in Grades 8, 10, 12. MTF study

It is interesting to remember that in 1996, 34% of 12th graders, 30.4% of 10th graders, and 21% of 8th graders smoked within the past 30 days, according the MTF study on drug use from 1975 to 2014. The figures in 2016 were 10.5%, 4.9%, and 2.6%, respectively. Such figures must be compared to vaping that peaked at 16% in 2015 among the senior students [3]. And among those vapers, two-thirds responded “just flavoring” to the question asking what contained their e-liquid when they vaped. Only about 20% of 12th and 10th graders and only 13% of 8th graders answered “nicotine” [4].

A less hazardous mean of experiencing nicotine?

The FDA’s message fails to disclose that the damage of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes is the same as that produced by nicotine delivered by combustible tobacco on adolescent brain. The concern should even be greater with kids’ smoking because of the combustion by-products of higher toxicity than the e-cigarette aerosol.

Estimated percentage of high school students who currently use any tobacco products, ≥2 tobacco products, and select tobacco products — National Youth Tobacco Survey 2011–2015 [3]
The ingestion of nicotine seems unavoidable for a significant subset of the youth (∼25%, constant between 2011 and 2015) [3] despite all anti-tobacco campaigns and harsher regulation of tobacco products. Hence, with more teenagers vaping, the e-cigarette is seen by some experts as a less dangerous alternative to cigarette smoking for nicotine uptake by this subset.

What are the risks of e-cigarettes to teens? Learn more from @Surgeon_General:

[1] Yuan M., Cross S. J., Loughlin S.E., & Leslie F.M., 2015. Nicotine and the adolescent brain. The Journal of physiology, 593(16), 3397-3412.

[2] England L.J., Bunnell R.E., Pechacek T.F., Tong V.T., McAfee T.A., 2015. Nicotine and the developing human: a neglected element in the electronic cigarette debate. Am. J. Prev. Med. 49, 286–293,

[3] Singh T, Arrazola RA, Corey CG, et al., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Tobacco use among middle and high school students—United States, 2011-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.;65(14):361-367.

[4] Miech R., Patrick M.E., O’Malley P.M., Johnston L.D., 2016. What are kids vaping? Results from a national survey of US adolescents. Tob. Control, tobaccocontrol-2016-053014.

  • Robert Harvey

    in an ideal world teens would not vape or smoke but if a teen is likely to smoke surely it is better for them to vape especially if they use 0% nicotine juice as many do.
    e-cigarette use needs to be measured in perspective to the alternative, unfortunately when I started smoking at age 13 there was no alternative and I only wish that e-cigarettes had been available then as I would probably never had smoked at all.


    E-cig it’s just best product for stop smoking

  • Tony

    This is outrageous. Never has the U.S. Had so many in the highest ranks of their field with such blind ignorance or willingness to accept funding from corporate interests. Quite frankly, has the U.S. ever has such a corrupt Surgeon General? This is pure corruption, he is the one parents need to protect their children from. Shortsighted & greedy