Health professionals concerned how vaping may affect teens

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FREMONT, Neb. (WOWT) -- This week, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored electronic cigarettes as concerns grow about the effects of vaping on teens. In this month's Health Check, 6 News looked into why these products are so popular among young people and why they're so dangerous.

The vaping industry is accused of reaching out to teens.

There's crème brulee, fruit medley, mango, cool cucumber — they're made to be enticing," said Paige Pioppi, Methodist Fremont Health's pulmonary purse practitioner.

Students nationwide are getting hooked.

"Sounds like chewing gum or some seltzer water," Pioppi added.

But e-cigarettes are no treat.

Right now about 20% to 25% of Nebraska high school students vape. That's an increase of 78% over last year.

In middle school, they're vaping, too. Use among those age groups also went up last year.

"This is really emerging to be a national health crisis," Pioppi said.

Dozens of teens have been hospitalized in 25 states were with severe respiratory illnesses this summer.

They all used e-cigarettes.

The first vaping death also happened over the summer, bringing the total now to two.

"Vaping is vaporized nicotine... So we're vaporizing nicotine to deliver it to our lungs," explained Pioppi. "There's cardiovascular effects; there's digest effects; there's reproductive effects."

Those are the known risks.

But because e-cigs are relatively new, Pioppi says it's what researchers don't know that worries her.

"I think we are just beginning to learn how damaging these products are to people's lungs — and it's only going to get worse," she said. "This is hurting your lungs. You don't know what you're inhaling, (and) especially because we have so many kids that want to participate in sports. It can create problems like Asthma or C.O.P.D. It's going to limit what they are able to do."

"We know 30 percent of people use them because of the flavors," said Pioppi.

She wants teens to know that no matter how they look or taste, these devices are just as dangerous as smoking.

"We can addict a whole new generation to this product if we don't do anything soon and give them a lifetime of breathing problems," she said.

In addition to respiratory illnesses, vaping has been linked to seizures. The devices are also responsible for several fire-related injuries.

As for those who say they use e-cigarettes to stop smoking, the FDA reports it has not found E-cigarettes to be helpful or effective in helping smokers quit. In fact, most people who try to quit by vaping are still smoking.