E-cigarettes should not be used by kids, the top U.S. health official says.
The devices, which have become popular among adults looking for a healthier alternative to smoking, not only deliver nicotine but also can emit toxic substances like lead, diacetyl and nickel, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy who released a report on the devices.
"All Americans need to know that e-cigarettes are dangerous to youth and young adults," Murthy said. "Any tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, is a health threat, particularly to young people."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of the devices to anyone under 18 earlier this year.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said makers of e-cigs are directly targeting kids with exotic flavors and hip marketing. They have become the most popular nicotine delivery system among young people.
"The use of products containing nicotine poses dangers to youth, pregnant women and fetuses. The use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe," according to the Surgeon General's report.
Elaborating on the report, Murthy said there is confusion surrounding the safety of e-cigs.
"E-cigarettes went from being rare in 2010 to being the most common tobacco product used among our youth," he said. "It also threatens 50 years of hard-fought progress we made curbing tobacco use."
The U.S. government released a report in 2015 saying that one in six high school students used an e-cig within the last month.
"The report finds that, while nicotine is a highly addictive drug at any age, youth and young adults are uniquely vulnerable to the long-term consequences of exposing the brain to nicotine, and concludes that youth use of nicotine in any form is unsafe," the Health and Human Services Department said.
Those views were echoed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Nicotine ... is highly addictive and has clear neurotoxic effects," Dr. Benard Dreyer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said at a news conference. "E-cigarettes have the potential to addict the next generation and it's a major public health concern to us."
Murthy added that parents, teachers and healthcare providers need to make sure kids know e-cigarettes are not safe.
"Today's report gives them the facts about how these products can be harmful to young people's health," he said.