Officials warn vaping, e-cigarettes not as safe as many teenagers think

DEA says vaping isn't safer than smoking

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - More and more teenagers are trying e-cigarettes and vaping, but the Drug Enforcement Administration wants everyone to know vaping isn't safer than smoking.

But some teenagers think it is safer, and studies suggest one in three high school students is using a vaping device.

"Shelly" is a mother raising a teenager through the phase of his life in which a lot of bad habits being. She asked not to be identified.

"I smoked for almost 18 years, if not longer," Shelly said. "It took me a long time to get off of it. My concern is he's getting more and more addicted to this nicotine."

She recently caught her 15-year-old son vaping in their home.

"I'd walk down the hallway and I'd smell it," Shelly said. "It smells like Froot Loops, and I'm like, 'Why's it smell like Froot Loops?'"

Vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of vapor produced by electronic cigarettes and similar devices. The devices can contain nicotine, and the DEA said they can also contain THC oil that's found in marijuana.

"Most of the time students will see it as something that is benign," DEA special agent Cheryl Davis said. "(They think), 'I'm not smoking cigarettes. I'm not smoking marijuana. It's perfectly OK.' But in actuality, it's not. Vaping can also be more addictive because the THC is definitely more concentrated."

Juuling is the latest trend with vaping, which involves vaping with a device called a Juul that looks like a flash drive.

"The Juul also has nicotine, just like other e-cigarettes," pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Joseph Rosen said. "But it has twice as much nicotine. The high level of nicotine in the Juul creates a much higher risk for addiction in the teens that use it."

A representative with the Juul brand said the company is working with the FDA to make sure children don't get their hands on it. But the Juul isn't the only product to have on your radar.

E-cigarette devices come in all shapes and sizes, with flavorful juices aimed at young buyers.

The FDA and FTC are working to crack down on the e-liquids. Last month, the agencies issued warning statements to 13 manufacturers about labeling e-liquids that contain nicotine as child-friendly food products.

"We know that vaporizers are targeted at teens by their colorful packaging, where they're located in stores, maybe they're located near candy or soda, things that are going to entice teens and young people," Davis said. "It's definitely a problem."

An 18-year-old man who we'll call "Bob" spoke with Local 4, and he said he's been vaping with a device for several years.

"One of my friends had one," Bob said.

The juice he uses contains 50 mg of nicotine.

"You get a lot more, like, it hits you faster, if you hit 50," Bob said. "It hits you ... more in the throat."

A 18-year-old woman who we'll call "Jane" said she recently started vaping.

"My boyfriend gave me this one," Jane said. "I've been using it for a month. Pretty often."

She said she could stop at any time.

"I don't really get addicted to things," Jane said. "I think I'd be, like, OK if people tell me to get off of it. I think I'd be OK with getting off of it."

But doctors warn vaping is highly addictive. The DEA said now is a good time to remind children about the dangers of vaping before they get out for the summer.

"Talk to your child even if they're not using it, because they may know someone who is using and that they could potentially prevent them from doing so," Davis said.

Right now, there's no state law keeping minors from possessing vaping devices or liquids. Some cities, including Clinton Township and Canton Township, are passing ordinances banning the sale to minors.

The Local 4 Defenders have learned there was a bill introduces into the state Senate in January 2017 that would ban the sale of vaping products to minors.

In May 2017, the Committee on Finance recommended the bill be passed and put into immediate effect, but there still hasn't been a vote.

Local 4 called Sen. Mike Kowall's office and the Senate majority leader to find out why. We are still waiting for a response.

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