Are e-cigs a safer option? Smokers, doctor weigh-in

(Souce: KAIT)
(Souce: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The popularity of e-cigarette use among teens is growing across the country.

A report released by the U.S. Surgeon General, details the 900% growth rate of e-cig use among high school students between 2011-2015.

Dr. Kasey Holder, vice president of medical affairs at St.Bernards Medical Center, said many teens believe e-cigs are a safer option because they don't contain as many chemicals as conventional cigarettes, which Holder said is not true.

"The liquid in e-cigarettes still contains nicotine which of course is addictive when used in any form," Holder said. "Especially for young people. Up until your mid-20s, your brain is still developing. So, exposure to nicotine in that time period can have some long-term effects on brain development and that can result in problems with attention, learning, impulse control and other mood disorders and of course can lead to nicotine addiction."

Holder said there are less chemicals in e-cigarettes than there are in conventional cigarettes but ingredients such as heavy metals used in e-cigs can potentially be harmful when inhaled and the long term effects of using e-cigs are not known right now.

Holder also cited marketing as another reason why teens use e-cigs, as there are hundreds of flavors on the market and enticing packaging.

Evan Falk, who used to smoke conventional cigarettes and use chewing tobacco, has been smoking e-cigs for about 6 years.

"I wanted to quit," Falk said. "I was tired of getting sick and having to go to the hospital and have lung infections and stuff like that. There's all kind of different juices and flavors and with cigarettes, it's just one gross flavor."

After folding to peer pressure, Falk said he started smoking when he was just 15-years-old.

"We hung around the skate park," Falk said. "Everyone smoked, it was just one of those social things."

Cameron McCormick also enjoys the social aspect of smoking e-cigs.

"In high school, once everyone started to come of age, they wanted to smoke cigarettes and do tobacco and all sorts of stuff," McCormick said. "Then, I discovered vaping and I figured that would be a much safer alternative and a way better thing for people to get started on rather than smoking."

Both Falk and McCormick said they first tried e-cigarettes when they were under 18 and believe it can help people quit smoking conventional cigarettes but they also believe teens should wait until they are of age to start.

An anonymous survey of 624 students at a Region 8 high school showed 310 kids have already tried e-cigarettes and 314 haven't.

E-cigarettes aren't only harmful when smoked, Holder said there's also a threat to younger children ingesting the liquid.

"You can have a nicotine overdose," Holder said. "Which can be very serious and potentially fatal."

After reading the surgeon general's report, Holder said she talked to her son about e-cigarettes and suggested parents go over what they are, how their friends may approach them about trying e-cigs, and how it affects their bodies.

For more tips on how to approach this conversation with your children, check out this CDC parent tip sheet.

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