Doctors of Optometry Can Help Stop Troubling E-cigarette Trends in Youth

Doctors of Optometry Can Help Stop Troubling E-cigarette Trends in Youth

The FINANCIAL -- The government is stepping up its efforts to snuff out electronic cigarette use among young people, offering an opportunity for doctors of optometry to reiterate to their patients smoking's health hazards, including to their eyes.

Not only is smoking an irritant to the eyes, but it also is a major risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, and the leading cause of preventable disease in the U.S.

In a June 8 article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that while overall tobacco use declined non-linearly in the U.S. between 2011 and 2017, e-cigarette use in the past 30 days increased non-linearly among high school students (1.5 percent to 11.7 percent) and middle schoolers (0.6 percent to 3.3 percent) in the same period.

Grounds for concern

Advocates argue for the increased scrutiny of e-cigarette use by young people because:

The majority of smokers start in their youth and young adulthood (9 out of 10 by age 18).

A December 2017 study linked vaping as a gateway to more vaping and combustible cigarettes.

E-cigarettes surpassed combustible cigarettes as the most-used tobacco product among youth in schools.

E-cigarettes have a particular appeal to youth. They come flavored, are advertised in an enticing, youthful way, and give the impression they are healthier than combustible cigarettes-they do contain fewer toxins but they are still hazardous.

Patient education

The AOA Health Promotions Committee's own concerns about the vaping trend prompted it to produce new patient education, "Smoking, Vaping and Your Eyes," led by committee member Dan Bintz, O.D.

The fact sheet provides patients with information on the hazards of combustible cigarettes and e-cigarettes, beyond being an irritant to the eyes.