Lowey, CDC, Local Advocates Warn of Teenage E-Cigarette Epidemic

July 29, 2019
Press Release

78% increase from 2017 to 2018 in high school students who reported e-cig use

“A public health emergency:” Lowey issues warning about the growing youth dependence on tobacco products

TARRYTOWN, NY Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, today hosted a roundtable discussion at Student Assistance Services Corp. in Tarrytown.

Lowey was joined by the Centers for Disease Control Office on Smoking and Health’s (OSH) Director, Dr. Corinne Graffunder; Deputy Director for Research Translation at OSH, Dr. Brian King; Associate Director of Policy in OSH Beth Reimels; and local physicians, educators, health advocates, youth directors, and students to discuss the epidemic of youth vaping and her efforts at the federal level to regulate e-cigarettes and protect public health.

“If we do not combat the epidemic of youth vaping, we will pay a greatly increased cost – in lives and money – associated with cancer, lung disease, heart disease and more for years to come,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “After decades of successful efforts to drive down tobacco use among kids, the surge of e-cigarettes is contributing to a growing youth dependence on tobacco products. We must address this public health emergency before a new generation is hooked on nicotine.”

The saturation of e-cigarettes has turned back the clock on decades of success in deterring underage use of tobacco.  From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose 78 percent. In 2018, high school students reported the highest rate of tobacco use in 14 years with more than 27% of high schoolers nationwide using at least one tobacco product.

“We appreciate Congresswoman Lowey’s attention to the dangers of vaping,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Westchester County Commissioner of Health. “Thanks to Tobacco 21 legislation signed into law last year by County Executive George Latimer, it is illegal to sell vaping products to anyone under age 21, but it will take all of us working together to stop our young people from vaping. At the County Health Department, we recently held a symposium for pediatricians and family practitioners and encouraged them to share the facts with patients and their parents. Many young people don’t realize that when they vape, they breathe in an aerosol that can contain harmful substances, including highly concentrated and addictive nicotine, volatile organic compounds that can cause cancer, heavy metals and diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease.”

Westchester and Rockland counties raised the smoking age from 18 to 21, paving the way for the statewide law in New York. While Congresswoman Lowey supports this accomplishment and is a cosponsor of legislation to raise the smoking age to 21 nationwide, changing the smoking age alone is not going to stem this epidemic that’s already taken hold in teens.  

As Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Lowey included an increase of $40 million for the Office on Smoking and Health in the House-passed spending bill for Fiscal Year 2020. As the Senate considers this legislation, Congresswoman Lowey will work to protect this increase and support CDC’s efforts to stop this growing epidemic. 

“Every stakeholder here today is critical to combatting the use of e-cigarettes by kids, teens, and young adults,” said Lowey. “I am honored that members of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health traveled to the Lower Hudson Valley to collaborate with local physicians, educators, health advocates, youth directors, and students. This epidemic has taken hold in our community and ending it will be a team effort.”

The full presentation by the CDC Office on Smoking and Health can be found here.