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Vape usage on the rise among minors

KATV

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) -- E-cigarette and vape usage is on the rise among minors here in the Natural State. That's according to the CDC, which predicts 20 percent of Arkansas teens will use vapes this year.

Although the sale of vapes is banned to anyone under 18 in Arkansas, the Department of Health says kids are still using them, and their usage is a concern.

The handheld electronic devices heat up liquid, which is inhaled and exhaled as vapor. Vaping is what many people say is a good alternative to smoking, but health officials say it's a concern.

"It still has nicotine, which is an addictive substance and since it's not regulated by the FDA, it has several ingredients which have not been tested," State Chronic Disease Director Dr. Bala says. He adds that ingredients like formaldehyde--which he says can damage lungs-- makes up many vape liquids. Those liquids, coming in an array of flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, chocolate, and menthol.

"They are targeting the kids and teenagers who like those kind of flavorings," Bala added.

"I think it's important for students to understand and even parents to understand that nicotine addition starts affecting the developing brain," Statewide Coordinator for Project Prevent Youth Coalition Laura Taylor said. Taylor works with a group of middle school-aged students that focuses on tobacco prevention.

Taylor says the earlier a person starts using tobacco products, the more likely they are to have that addiction later on.

But Topher Kent, owner of "Rogue Vapers" and president of Arkansas Vape Advocacy Alliance, says otherwise:

"We're an alternative to smoking, and much less harmful," Kent explained. A 20-year smoker himself, Kent credits vaping to helping him kick cigarettes for good.

Kent adds that vaping is "95 percent less risky and less harmful than smoking", according to a 2016 study by the Royal College of Physicians.

"It's not 100 percent safe-- we never said it was-- but it's much less harmful," he added. Kent adds that his shop does not market toward kids.

"We're an adult product. 18 and up, you see the signs on the door," Kent added.

Just last week, the FDA released proposed guidelines to eliminate flavorings in e-cig products.

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