Electronic cigarette use increasing among teens, long-term effects unknown

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new trend that was supposed to help lessen the urge to smoke is backfiring for many kids.

The growing popularity of electronic cigarettes among teens is concerning local health officials, because this “safe” alternative still contains harmful materials.

Call 12 For Action has learned that in the last year, e-cigarette use among teens has tripled. According to health officials, e-cigarette use is still new — and no one really knows the long term effects.

Naisha Liriano, 18, said she started smoking traditional cigarettes was she was 14-years-old, but she eventually switched to e-cigarettes.

“It had flavor, like Sour-Patch flavor, so I said ‘okay,’ I wanted to try it. And it had almost the same effect as a cigarette, but it just had flavor in it” she said.

In a new report the Center for Disease Control found that in 2014, 2.5 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes.

The statistics for high school students show the most dramatic change — from 2011 to 2014, e-cigarette use increased from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent. In the same study, traditional cigarette use declined from 16 percent to 9 percent.

“I think a lot of kids view this as cool, and they think it’s safe,” Dina Morrisey of the Injury Prevention Center said.

While electronic cigarettes don’t contain smoke or tar — they do have nicotine.

“Nicotine is highly addictive, these kids, their brains are still developing and we really don’t know the long term effects on the development of the brain,” Morrisey said.

As of now, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes, but by June it hopes to have an answer on whether or not it will start.

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