(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now include electronic cigarettes in a public health education campaign to discourage American youth from using tobacco and nicotine products.
This fall, "The Real Cost" campaign will be expanded to include messages about the dangers of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems. A full-scale campaign will be launched in 2018.
It's the first FDA effort that targets youth use of e-cigarettes and similar products.
"Educating youth about the dangers of tobacco products has been a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by these products. Including e-cigarettes and other [similar] products in our prevention work not only makes sense, it reflects the troubling reality that they are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
"While we pursue a policy that focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products, we will also continue to work vigorously to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of kids," Gottlieb said in an agency news release.
In 2016, more than 2 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes and similar products, the FDA said. Half of middle and high school students who were tobacco users had used two or more tobacco products.
Research shows that exposure to nicotine affects a young person's developing brain and may rewire it to be more prone to nicotine addiction later in life, according to the FDA.
"The FDA has a multi-pronged effort to protect kids from using any nicotine-containing product, including e-cigarettes," said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
"As we continue to learn more about these products and their relationship to youth, the agency will be better prepared to help address the issue of youth use through science-based educational efforts and regulatory policies that will ultimately pay the greatest dividends in reducing tobacco-related disease and death," he added.
Explore further: FDA to target addictive levels of nicotine in cigarettes
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.