AHA launches anti-e-cigarette campaign with hashtag #QuitLying addressed to ‘Big Vape’
During an hour-long press conference, the public health crisis of dramatically rising numbers of youth using e-cigarettes was outlined and the AHA “End the lies youth vaping and nicotine research initiative’ was launched. Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA, stressed that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, with 1 in 4 reporting they vape. Marketing campaigns have been telling them that using e-cigarettes is safe. Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the AHA, noted that about 60 years ago, we were in a similar situation, in which society was bombarded by advertisements that traditional smoking was safe, and even healthy.
Although the body of evidence on the effect of smoking is relatively small, the negative effects of nicotine are clear. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. It is known to be a neurotoxin, which is especially problematic in youth, in whom the brain is still developing. E-cigarettes emit an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor that consists of fine particles. Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to heart and respiratory diseases and cancer.
AHA already directed research efforts into the effects of flavouring substances. Some appear toxic to the endothelium upon acute exposure; it remains to be established what this means for chronic exposure, but this is likely to be worse.
Robert Harrington, the current president of the AHA, presented the AHA’s response to this health crisis. They start a multipillar consisting of comprehensive science, public policy and community-based initiatives intended to address the urgent epidemic and public health crisis of youth vaping. Up to 20 million dollars is available for basic, clinical and population research projects, both with translational and interventional approaches. AHA has identified gaps in research, policy and community/school awareness that must be addressed to combat the e-cigarette epidemic. During the Presidential Session on Sunday, the call for research proposals will be opened. The deadline for submission is January, and projects will be reviewed rapidly.
In addition to stimulating research, AHA will work on policy at various levels of government (local, state and federal), and urging the FDA to take flavoured tobacco from the market and subject e-cigarettes to the same regulations as traditional cigarettes. Moreover, schools are considered a ground zero in combatting this epidemic. Not only will efforts be made to engage students in the Kids’ Heart Challenge, teachers and education leaders will be engaged through a superintendent forum. Efforts are directed at bringing evidence-based solutions to schools. The campaign aims to bring the facts about vaping not being safe and harmless to children and parents, as a counter narrative to the lies of ‘big vape’.
‘Big vape’ is blamed for using the same marketing strategies as ‘Big Tobacco’, to make a new generation addicted to nicotine. This appears to be particularly true for underserved and vulnerable groups in society, which further jeopardizes their health situation. The multitude of flavourings appears to be especially appealing to teenagers. In middle school kids, fruit and desert flavours are popular, while high school students mostly choose mint and fruit flavours. Two youth advocates who were present during the press conference shared that in their high schools, vaping was present everywhere. Sometimes hiding in the bathrooms, sometimes more openly on the hallway. Clearly, students are not concerned about what they expose themselves to.
That is why the campaign is saying #QuitLying to ‘Big Vape’. The website poses facts next to lies.
- Our reporting is based on the information provided during AHA Scientific Sessions 2019 -