Sep 15, 2014 4:00 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs


A rapidly growing number of Utah teens are using electronic cigarettes, an activity that has health professionals alarmed.

According to the Utah Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Control in Utah annual report, among teens in grades 8, 10 and 12 who were surveyed last year, 12 percent said they had tried the devices and nearly 6% said they had used them in the past 30 days—a higher number than the roughly 4% of teens who regularly smoke cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are also called e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs and hookah pens. “[They] are battery-powered devices that turn liquids, which almost always contain nicotine, into an aerosol or vapor,” the Health Department’s report says. The liquids have kid-friendly flavorings like bubble gum, cotton candy and root beer.

“Teens don’t think they are dangerous because they taste good and don’t have actual tobacco,” says Cynthia L. Gellner, MD, a board-certified pediatrician with University of Utah Health.

But the nicotine in e-cigarettes can be harmful. “Teens don’t think about risk factors in the future, but one of nicotine’s biggest risks is the increased stress it puts on the heart,” Gellner says. “Nicotine can also cause jitteriness, insomnia and mood swings.”

There are more acute dangers, too. “The number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in April.

Teens might not even know what they’re inhaling, the Health Department’s report points out. “Due to lack of regulation, there is no consistency in labeling of the nicotine content and other ingredients in e-cigarette liquids,” it says.

“There are so many unknown substances in e-cigarettes,” Gellner warns. “They are not safe.” 

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