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Officials Warn Minors About Using E-Cigarettes
Health officials call it an alarming trend. Electronic cigarettes have become the new alternative to smoking tobacco. There's no tobacco, so there's no smoke. But there's still nicotine.
The e-cigarettes seem to have found a niche among young adults across the country, complete with celebrity endorsements.
Not a lot is known about the health effects of these new cigarettes, and that has health officials concerned.
They're popping up everywhere, and some stores say they can't keep the battery-powered cigarettes on shelves.
"It's been a craze for a while. It's just becoming a bigger craze," Billijo Freesmeyer told us. She manages the Discount Tobacco store on Wabash Avenue.
She said business is booming. This is causing major issues for the American Lung Association.
"We need to really encourage the FDA to regulate these as soon as possible," Kathy Drea said.
The cigarette alternative can be used by minors in Illinois.
The CDC estimates 1.78 million middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes. Kathy Drea said that comes from glamorized advertising.
"They're using beautiful sexy women," Drea said. "They're using young celebrities. They're already sponsoring race cars and other sporting events."
"You have to be 18 to buy electronic cigarettes anyway," Freesmeyer said.
She doesn't allow minors to step in her store.
Although the product is not regulated, she said she won't sell to minors. Neither are the owners at Triple Vapors.
Niki Castleman said all of her electronic cigarettes have nicotine in them.
"The addiction to nicotine comes from cigarettes," Castleman said. "Gas stations don't sell it to kids under 18. It's just something we kind of stand by too."
She said if her store was to sell to minors, they could make major profits. Even with knowing this, she said the addiction is not worth it.
"I have children," Castleman said. "I wouldn't want my kids to be able to walk in to some place that could potentially addict them to nicotine."
In most states, there are no regulations for people under 18 using the product.
Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed a law banning people under 18 from buying them. But until that law takes effect January 1, minors can still use e-cigarettes legally in Illinois.
The CDC said they plan to regulate the electronic cigarettes as early as October. They said potentially harmful ingredients have also been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.