COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- Doctors are sounding a major alarm for parents. Medical experts now report that the use of e-cigarettes continues to grow among teens. In fact, new research indicates some of the most popular fruity flavors are being marketed towards younger people. Experts said those products could be some of the most dangerous.
Doctors said that e-cigarettes, or vapes, can be just as bad for your health as traditional cigarettes. The research on the health effects of e-cigs is still being done, but doctors warn that users could be taking in potentially dangerous chemicals. In addition to that, many medical professionals see the use of e-cigs as a gateway to stronger tobacco.
Columbus business owner Kevin Zuccaro opened Great Vapes three-and-a-half years ago. In that time, business continues to grow.
"Flavor-wise, I have 120 different house flavors in my line," said Zuccaro.
The popularity of e-cigarettes seems to be growing every day. All across Central Ohio, more and more of these shops are popping up. You can pretty much find them anywhere. In recent years, the number of teens using is rising as well.
"Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of data in regards to research right now," said Kim Hehman, Director of Cancer and Respiratory Care for OhioHealth Doctors Hospital.
"We're learning more and more," Hehman said.
Medical experts like Hehman are now warning about the possible health dangers. A study recently published by the Journal Pediatrics indicates, "the presence of harmful ingredients in e-cigarette vapor." Five dangers chemicals listed, acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide and crotonaldehyde. According to study researchers, popular fruity flavors appear to be the worst.
ABC 6/FOX 28 spoke with Heaven Rhoades and Corey Voder, they are just two of the growing number of younger e-cig users. They said that they don't smoke traditional cigarettes. Instead, they smoke e-cigs because of the sweetness of the vape juices. The same can be said of their friends.
"A good amount of my friends vape, maybe one out of five," said Rhoades.
"You don't have to eat candy or anything. You just take a puff off on your vape and get the same satisfaction," said Voder.
Rhoades had just bought a new "juul." It's a smaller vaping device, the size of a flash drive.
"This is actually the limited edition one. It's blue. They're usually black. So, when I went in there I thought it was pretty cool that he had them. I think I got the last one too," said Rhoades.
Some schools are updating their tobacco policies, banning the use of vaping products on school property.
"For teenagers and the younger population that are using e-cigarettes, they are leading to more of a gateway to using combustible tobacco," Hehman said.
Zuccaro for one believes the e-cig industry is getting a bad rap. So do customers that spoke at his shop. He also points to the limited amount of research on health effects.
"For people that have smoked and now vape, they will tell you they are pretty drastically different," said Zuccaro.
Zuccaro also has pretty strict rules in place at his shop. Everything inside his shop is considered tobacco products. In Columbus, no one under the age of 21 is allowed to purchase. Zuccaro won't allow anyone under that age to buy any product from his store. But, he said that some parents do believe vaping is a safer choice, if their kids are going to smoke.
"I treat everything in here like a tobacco product.. Whether I agree or disagree with it. It's just not worth taking a chance on it. Parents will actually come in on their behalf or with them and their parents will buy equipment, buy juice for them or whatever because they've deemed this to be a better alternative than smoking cigarettes," said Zuccaro.
As the debate over this issue rages on, medical professionals continue to urge caution. However, for a lot of young e-cig users the warning simply going up in smoke for now.
E-cigarette users and shop owners also dispute the claim that e-cigs are a gateway to traditional smoking. In fact, some said that they used e-cigs to quit smoking and others said that they have never smoked a traditional cigarette. Medical experts admit, it may take years to truly know the effects. The major concern they have is that smoking e-cigs seems to have become the cool thing to do among a large number of teens.