Health departments warn about 'epidemic' levels of e-cigarette use among teens

Both the federal government and the state of Minnesota are warning about the dangers of teens using e-cigarettes.

The FDA now calls teen vaping an epidemic and handed down fines and warning to the manufacturers and retailers who are selling e-cigarettes to minors.

The Minnesota Department of Health issued an advisory warning about the long term susceptibility to addiction from smoking e-cigarettes.

With the dramatic rise in teen vaping, the Department of Health warns how new research shows an increased threat to teen addiction to nicotine.

“The brain learns addiction,” said Laura Oliven, the Tobacco Control Manager at the Department of Health. “So, it increases the susceptibility for both addition to electronic cigarette use, but has long-term implications as the brain locks in those patterns that changes the chemistry and increases the susceptibility and risk of addiction to alcohol, drugs and other tobacco.”

The latest youth tobacco survey shows nearly one in five Minnesota students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, a 50 percent jump in three years.

It reverses a 17-year trend in dropping tobacco use.

The e-cigarettes themselves are small and look like computer devices. The most popular product is the Juul.

“So a Juul, you might find one of these in your kids backpack. This is not a flash drive. This is a harmful electronic cigarette,” said Oliven. “So to be aware, to understand what it is and this is not harmless aerosol.” 

The Internet, especially YouTube, is full of videos showing kids how to hide their e-cigarettes either at home or at school.

Combined with the high nicotine levels, especially in the Juul, make them all part of the new advisory from the Department of Health.

“So, high levels of nicotine exposure that go quickly into the brain, available in flavors, it is a perfect storm as we say,” Oliven said.

Many cities are now cracking down.  You cannot buy e-cigarettes in Minneapolis and St. Paul if you are younger than 21, but many people find them easy to get online.