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Study: E-Cigarettes Harmful to Teens

Colorado law prohibits selling tobacco products to minors, but there are no federal rules limiting access to electronic cigarettes. ( Commons)
Colorado law prohibits selling tobacco products to minors, but there are no federal rules limiting access to electronic cigarettes. ( Commons)
March 19, 2018

DENVER – An increasing number of teens in Colorado and across the United States are drawn to electronic cigarettes, with such flavors as watermelon and cotton candy. But new research says vaping produces toxic chemicals, even when there's no nicotine in the product.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco tested the urine of more than 80 adolescent smokers, and 20 non-smokers. Mark Rubenstein, a UCSF pediatrics professor and the study's lead author, thinks teens need to be warned that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless.

"We are finding some of the same chemicals that we see in regular cigarettes in teenagers who are using e-cigarettes," Rubenstein said. "The levels are much lower than in regular cigarettes, but teens should not be exposing themselves to any levels."

He explained that the oils in e-cigarettes, such as propylene glycol and glycerin - although approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - release harmful toxins when exposed to the high temperatures needed to create vapor smoke.

Dr. Norman Edelman, senior science consultant for the American Lung Association, said Rubenstein's study should sound an alarm about possibly regulating e-cigarettes, which can be a gateway to traditional smoking.

While some localities have laws on the books that limit access, Edelman believes the FDA should extend rules that restrict the use of tobacco to vape products as well.

"And the American Lung Association is rather concerned that the Food and Drug Administration, over a year ago, announced their intention to promulgate such rules, but have not yet done so," added Edelman.

Rubenstein offered one caveat on e-cigarettes, which also are marketed to adults trying to quit smoking.

"We're not saying that adults who are heavy cigarette smokers shouldn't consider these products as a form of harm reduction," he said. "We're just saying that kids should not be exposed to these products."

Colorado law prohibits selling tobacco products to people under age 18, and at least two Denver-area vape shops report that they don't sell even nicotine-free products to minors.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO