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Doctors Raise Red Flag About Teens and E-Cigarettes

Teens are turning to e-cigarettes in large numbers, which doctors say is problematic on many fronts. Credit:
Teens are turning to e-cigarettes in large numbers, which doctors say is problematic on many fronts. Credit:
August 18, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As summer winds down and kids return to their classes and friends, health experts want to make sure parents make children aware of the dangers posed by electronic cigarettes.

The good news is fewer teens are picking up the smoking habit, but the latest data from the CDC shows they are turning to "vaping," as the use of electronic cigarettes is known.

Dr. Jennifer Lowry, chief of toxicology at Children's Mercy Hospital, says she believes kids are being duped into thinking the devices are a safe alternative to conventional smoking.

"Kids are choosing not to start conventional cigarettes, because they think it's safer," she says. "But yet they're getting more nicotine than they would with a regular cigarette, and now they have an addiction potential."

As is the case with other drugs, Lowry says it's up to parents to peel back the layers of marketing surrounding e-cigarettes, and help kids understand the risks. According to the CDC, nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.

Lowry adds that one of the more ironic aspects is e-cigarettes were designed to be used by adults as a smoking cessation method. But she says that's not how they're marketed.

"They have fun flavors in it, they have fun colors, they have fun smells," she says. "You know anybody who would need it to actually quit smoking doesn't need all of that stuff. The marketing is specific to children."

Right now the FDA is deciding how strictly to regulate e-cigarettes, including their advertising. While Missouri law prohibits anyone underage from purchasing e-cigarettes, Lowry says there is not enough enforcement, particularly at specialty "vape" shops, which have popped up in many areas.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO