What role does the Surgeon General have in e-cig regulation?
The vaping community might be growing fast in the US but it has created a divide with both enthusiasts and those against the practice voicing their opinions. One person who can influence how vaping is portrayed is the Surgeon General. But what is his viewpoint on e-cigs and how much of an impact does he really have?
Who is the Surgeon General?
The Surgeon General is the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government and is head of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The current Surgeon General is Vivek Murthy after Barack Obama nominated him for the office in 2014.
The Commissioned Corps is a group of 6,500 health professionals and as head of this group the Surgeon General reports to the Assistant Secretary of Health. As a result, he can have a significant impact on the views and legislation related to health concerns, including smoking and vaping.
What it the Surgeon General’s view on vaping?
So far, the Surgeon General has taken a rather negative view on vaping and has publicly stated his stance on the use of e-cigs.
However, his most recent comments have centered on the uptake of e-cigarettes and e-liquid by teenagers, who under the law should not be able to purchase devices or e-liquids, rather than adults using them. According to federal government statistics, some 16% of high school students report using an e-cigarette within the last year and have become the most commonly used tobacco-related product among youths, although it is worth noting that while regulated as tobacco under the FDA, e-liquids don’t contain traditional tobacco.
It’s often the fruity flavors that entice younger generations that shouldn’t be using e-cig devices to give it a try. While nicotine isn’t present in all e-liquids some teens are picking up vaping liquid that does contain the additive and the Surgeon General has highlighted this as a particular concern. He argues nicotine could have a greater impact on young brains that are still developing, when compared to the effects it has on adults.
The issue of underage vaping is one many in the industry are trying to tackle, including Black Note, through producing flavors, marketing campaigns, and devices that appeal to a more mature audience.
One area that many agree on is that there simply needs to be more research into vaping. The Surgeon General has stated that in order to accurately compare e-cigs with traditional tobacco cigarettes, more studies need to be conducted looking at various aspects, including the effects on health. He said that ‘clarity’ was needed in order to make informed public health policies.
However, the vaping community has criticized the Surgeon General’s report overall. The report focused on the impact vaping has on adolescents, who should be protected by law, and the use of flavors that appeal to them. While an important aspect, vaping goes beyond this one demographic. The report doesn’t look deeper at vaping in adults and how it can be used to support smokers that are looking to give up traditional cigarettes and cut down on nicotine consumption.
How does the Surgeon General affect public opinion and legislation?
As the country’s top doctor, the Surgeon General does have a significant affect on public opinion and legislation; his view is respected and often listened to. The office was instrumental in guiding the control and regulations around tobacco that are now in place today.
Reflecting the Surgeon General’s concerns earlier this year, officials at the National Park Service proposed plans to ban all devices throughout the country. The move by the organization highlights the impact comments from the Surgeon General can have on public opinion. If the Surgeon General continues to take a negative stance overall on vaping and back its categorization as a tobacco product, it could mean that strict regulations are unlikely to be relaxed and could even by strengthened.
But vaping research is being conducted all the time and the outcome of such studies could affect the Surgeon General’s view if they were to draw scientific conclusions, supported by evidence that showed vaping in a positive light. Overall, despite not being directly involved in creating legislation, the Surgeon General is an important player in how vaping is viewed across America.