More teens experimenting with e-cigs - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

More teens experimenting with e-cigs

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More and more teenagers are experimenting with electronic cigarettes - devices that deliver nicotine without tobacco.

Some experts worry that getting kids hooked on the chemical will alter their brain development and possibly make them more susceptible to other drugs.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco examined data from two large national surveys of about 20,000 middle school and high school kids each. In just one year, the number of kids who tried e-cigarettes doubled from 3 percent in 2011 to 6.5 percent in 2012.

"We also saw that the kids who'd used e-cigarettes were more likely to progress from experimenting with conventional tobacco cigarettes to becoming regular tobacco cigarette users," said Dr. Lauren Dutra.

This snapshot of teenage life does not prove e-cigarette usage leads to tobacco smoking, but experts say the nicotine delivered through these devices can alter the developing brain.

According to Dr. David Tinkelman with National Jewish Health, "There's a part of the brain called the limbic system that is very susceptible to the effects of nicotine and it relates to behavior control as well as emotional development."

There's also concern the devices can be modified to be used with other drugs such as marijuana or alcohol.

"I've even heard stories of kids filling these devices with vodka and trying to vape vodka," said Dr. Dutra.

In a statement, the parent company of Blu e-cigarettes, Lorillard, said the company is in "support of any regulation or restriction that prevents a child from accessing electronic cigarettes."

The e-cigarette industry is estimated to make $1.5 billion this year.

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