News release: Nicotine poses serious health threat to Minnesota’s youth and pregnant women

News Release
May 10, 2017

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Nicotine poses serious health threat to Minnesota’s youth and pregnant women

E-cigarette and other nicotine product use rises rapidly in Minnesota

Today, the Minnesota Department of Health reissued its nicotine heath advisory to inform parents and health care providers about the health dangers of nicotine for children, teens, and pregnant women.

While combustible tobacco use declines, the use of nicotine-containing products like e-cigarettes continues to surge among youth. The 2016 Minnesota Student Survey found that e-cigarette use among 11 graders is now more than double the use of cigarettes with 17 percent of students using them in the past 30 days.

“After reaching historic lows in youth cigarette use, it is troubling to note a resurgence of youth nicotine use under a new guise – electronic cigarettes,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “It’s imperative parents and the health care community are aware of the dangers that nicotine poses to adolescent health; it’s more harmful than many people think.”  

The Health Advisory is based on a summary of the latest research on the health risks of nicotine, and reflect findings from the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. The advisory reports that nicotine exposure can harm brain development during adolescence and poses a serious health risk for youth.

The teen years are a critical window for brain growth and development. As a result, adolescents are especially at risk from the harms caused by nicotine exposure. Ongoing use of nicotine can harm brain development during adolescence, a critical time when the brain is still “under construction.” Animal research has found that even in small doses, nicotine exposure in adolescence causes long-lasting changes in brain development. This could have negative implications in young people for learning, memory, attention. Nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to not only tobacco, but also substances like illicit drugs.

In addition, a growing body of evidence indicates that young people who have never smoked conventional cigarettes, but currently use e-cigarettes, are more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes in the future than are young people who do not use e-cigarettes.

“Given the rapid rise in use and growing popularity of e-cigarettes among youth, we are taking steps to inform the public about the health risks of nicotine. It’s not harmless for our teens – many of our kids using e-cigarettes today could end up being tomorrow’s smokers,” Ehlinger said.

E-cigarette are available in thousands of flavors and are widely available now in Minnesota stores. A recent report by CDC found that nearly all of e-cigarette products found in retail settings contain nicotine.

The Advisory also cautions pregnant woman from using nicotine. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that use of products containing nicotine poses danger to pregnant women and unborn children. Fetal exposure to nicotine can have a variety of negative long-term consequences including sudden infant death syndrome, impaired brain and lung development, auditory processing problems, effects on behaviors and obesity, and deficits in attention and cognition.

Communities across the state are taking steps to protect youth from the harms of nicotine. Over half of the state is now covered by comprehensive clean indoor air policies that also restrict e-cigarette use. Some localities have also restricted the sale of flavored tobacco to tobacco-only shops. Given the risks to adolescent brain development, some communities across the country are also taking steps to protect kids by increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.

Learn more at Health Risks of Nicotine for Youth.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications