E-cigarette usage among teens rises - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

E-cigarette usage among teens rises

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MARION, Ill. -- Kids are using electronic cigarettes more and more.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports a large spike in the number of teens using vaping devices from 2011 to 2015, an issue lawmakers and doctors want to address.

Dr. Ronald Chediak, a pediatrician at Heartland Regional Medical Center, said it's difficult for him to quantify just how bad the problem is locally.

"It's hard for me to know the exact prevalence (of vaping devices) because many of them don't talk to me about it because they don't want me to talk to them about it," Chediak said.

But he's confident the numbers in southern Illinois mirror the national numbers to a certain extent, and he finds that alarming.

"This really gets a foot in the door in teenagers for addictive behaviors," Chediak said. "And one addictive behavior leads to another and we don't need that in our children."

He says teens often justify using e-cigarettes because they're not as dangerous as regular cigarettes-- but the jury is still out on their impact.  

"Think about how long it took to know about the health consequences of cigarette smoking?"

Chediak said there's other chemicals in vaping devices that could cause harm and companies that make them aren't regulated by the FDA yet.

"You don't know what you're getting and if it's going to match what's on the label," Chediak said.

The FDA is moving closer to regulation, but not for at least another four years.

Chediak wants that process to speed up, comparing the rise in e-cigarette use to the opioid epidemic.

"People want to feel good, and they're willing to ignore the long-term consequences and possibilities of addiction," Chediak said.

And he said it's better to just avoid vaping devices altogether.

The Illinois Senate passed a bill raising the smoking age to 21, including e-cigarettes. The House has not voted on the bill yet.

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