YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The number of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes has tripled over the last 5 years, and the U.S. Surgeon General is now calling it a major health problem.
In a report released Thursday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said more research is needed on “vaping,” but said e-cigarettes aren’t harmless and too many teens use them.
Local doctors agree.
Dr. Michael Sevilla, with the Family Practice Center in Salem, said he is concerned about e-cigarette use, especially among young kids.
“I have a lot of patients, I have a lot of parents who asked me about e-cigarettes… What I tell my patients is that there’s really not a lot of long-term research out there yet saying how harmful are they, how helpful are they,” he said.
E-cigarette use among kids and young adults has increased considerably in recent years. In 2015, 1 in 6 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month. More than a quarter of students in grades 6 through 12 and more than a third of young adults had ever tried e-cigarettes, according to the Surgeon General’s report.
Sevilla said many people believe e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, despite a lack of research confirming that. He added that there are also questions about the second-hand effects of vaping.
“What we do know is that, especially in kids, the brain is still developing at that age, and if you expose them to substances like nicotine — whether it’s smoking or e-cigarettes — it can really influence them, as far as nicotine being addictive,” he said. “I think it could bridge them to other types of drugs.”
Those who smoke e-cigarettes have a different view.
Coty Salman started smoking when he was 15 years old. Now 23, he made the switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.
He said vaping helped him wean off cigarettes.
“I’ve noticed I’m healthier. You know, I’ve been able to sleep better. I haven’t been waking up coughing. It was getting really bad,” he said. “The reason I did it was because of my son.”
Nikitis Katsourakis, owner of Rocco’s Vape Lounge, said he disagrees with the Surgeon General’s report, which he said is unfair to the industry.
“E-cigarettes were made for smokers of traditional cigarettes, cigar-users, hookah, chewing tobacco. It was made for people who are dependent on nicotine through other means that were determined to be carcinogenic and cancerous,” he said.
He added that there are e-cigarette products that have no nicotine.
“There’s a lot of fear-mongering going on, obviously. They do that with a lot of other products… they do that to get attention,” he said.
“Instead of the FDA regulating us, like they are, they should be looking into, ‘How can we make it better?'”
Katsourakis and Salman do say there are problems with e-cigarettes getting into the hands of children, but Katsourakis said he works to keep them from getting into the wrong hands.
“We can do our part in the store to make sure we sell it to adults over the age of 18 years old, but you do have it in the back of your head that these cab be getting out into the streets, getting sold second-hand,” he said.
He recommended that parents be aware of what their kids are doing and confiscate such products, if they’re underage.