BOSTON (CBS) – There is growing concern that e-cigarettes are luring teenagers into addiction. E-cigarettes have no odor and what looks like smoke is actually water vapor.
There’s no tar or other carcinogenic chemicals, but most have nicotine, a highly addictive drug. DJ Wilson, head of tobacco control for the Mass Municipal Association, says e-cigarettes are creating a whole new generation of users.
“Between 2011 and 2012, the self-reported rate of e-cigarette use in high school doubled,” Wilson says. “For kids it’s cheaper than buying pack of cigarettes.”
Tyngsboro High School Principal Michael Woodlock says that while they may not be as dangerous as cigarettes, his message to students is clear.
“It’s not accepted and it’s punishable by suspension,” Woodlock says.
David Bershad is the owner of Vape Daddy’s, a custom e-cigarette shop in Newton. “It’s the lesser of two evils,” Bershad says. He won’t let anyone inside the shop who is under 18, but he says for adults like Justin Poritzky, electronic cigarettes are an important option. “I was opening my third pack every day,” Poritzky says.
Now, Justin is only vaping, an alternative name that comes from the way the device works, by vaporizing the nicotine liquid inside. The 21-year-old says he feels better since he switched. “I got my breath back, I can run as far as I want,” Poritzky says. “And I won’t be coughing up a storm.”
But are they really safer?
E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA and haven’t been extensively studied. But there is one thing UMass toxicology expert Dr. Edward Boyer is sure about. Children are more susceptible to nicotine addiction than adults.
“The bottom line is we don’t know what we don’t know about nicotine exposure from these new products,” Dr. Boyer says. “All I know is that this is something that I hope my children never get into.”
But experts say there’s a lot at work against the kids here. There are child-friendly flavorings like sweet-tart and cotton candy and the term vaping itself eliminates the stigma of cigarettes. And today’s kids are exposed in a way they haven’t been with traditional tobacco.
In Newton e-cigarettes are legal in public places. They are banned in Boston and there’s a move on Beacon Hill to make that ban statewide.
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