by Lily Grace

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced a “large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes—specifically JUUL [brand] products—to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers,” Commissioner Scott Gottleib, MD, announced in a statement. The crackdown focuses on JUUL e-cigarettes as well as other brands and includes raids on retail stores suspected of selling the products to minors. Forty stores have already been cited for making illegal sales.

Bottom line: officials are quickly releasing that this is no alternative.

E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco by youth in the U.S., according to WebMD. And dual use, or using both e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, is common among youth and young adults 18-25 years of age.

Reasons reported by young people for using e-cigarettes include curiosity, taste, and the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other tobacco products.

Flavored e-cigarettes are very popular, especially with young adults. More than 9 of every 10 young adult e-cigarette users said they use e-cigarettes flavored to taste like menthol, alcohol, candy, fruit, chocolate, or other sweets. More than 8 of every 10 youth ages 12-17 who use e-cigarettes said they use flavored e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are a $2.5 billion business in the U.S. As of 2014, the e-cigarette industry spent $125 million a year to advertise their products, and used many of the techniques that made traditional cigarettes popular such as sexual content and customer satisfaction. We know that marketing and advertising of conventional tobacco products like cigarettes can lead youth to use tobacco, and scientists are also finding that youth who are exposed to e-cigarette advertisements are more likely to use the product than youth who are not exposed.

So, what can we do to prevent harm? Educate!

It is important to prevent harm to youth and young adults from e-cigarettes. We know enough to take action now to protect the health of our nation’s young people. Everyone has a role, including parents, health care providers, teachers, and others who work with and care about young people.

Talk with your teen or other young people about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

You can start by talking to your kids or to other young people  you know about the dangers of e-cigarettes. Tell them about the harm that nicotine (in any form) can do to their growing brain. Let them know that you stand strong against them using any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, now or in the future. Even if you have used tobacco yourself, they will listen if you discuss your struggles with nicotine addiction.

The following are specific actions that parents and other adults  can take to reduce young people’s exposure to e-cigarettes, according to WebMD:

» Restrict E-cigarette Use Around Young People. Don’t let anyone use e-cigarettes or other tobacco products around young people. Not only are youth watching the behaviors of others as an example, but they’re also at risk of exposure to nicotine and other chemicals that can be harmful to their health.

» Visit Tobacco-Free Locations. Avoid restaurants and other locations that allow use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

» Ensure School is Tobacco-Free. Check with your school administration to ensure your child’s school, college, or university is completely tobacco-free, including being free of e-cigarettes.

» Make Your Home Tobacco-Free. Make your home and vehicles tobacco-free by not allowing use of any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, by family members, friends, and guests. This is an important step to fully protect your children from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke and secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes.

» Be an Example. Be an example to youth by living tobaccofree. Even if you’re quitting tobacco, share the reasons why you want to be tobacco-free and ask for support in your journey.