Health Minute: Doctors weigh in on e-cigarettes

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POSTED: Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 12:00pm

UPDATED: Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 12:04pm

Tobacco-less cigarettes called e-cigarettes are gaining popularity in this country.

They can help people quit smoking, but some fear they can get others hooked on nicotine.

Peter Chugaev has been smoking for 45 years and for the past 15 he's been trying to quit.

“You have a cup of coffee, you go on the deck, you have a cigarette,” Chugaev said.

Now he's turning to electronic cigarettes to try to quit. Users inhale, but there's no smoke. Taking a puff triggers a heating coil, which warms up liquid nicotine, in a plastic filter, resulting in nicotine-filled vapor.

But hardcore smokers aren't the only ones seeking out e-cigarettes.

Young people are as well and this has some health experts concerned because these products are not federally regulated and there is limited research on their safety.

Dr. Sharon Bergquist, with the Emory School of Medicine said, “The greatest concern is that between 2011 and 2012 the rate of use between middle school and high school kids has doubled.”

These products come in flavors that may appeal to young people.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control says, “Well, there are not a lot of adults who would smoke a cotton candy e-cigarette.”

Health experts worry that once addicted to the nicotine in e-cigarettes, young people may branch out and try tobacco products.

Manufacturers say they don't market to kids and maintain that electronic cigarettes are a good alternative to conventional cigarettes.

And for Peter, e-cigarettes seem to be helping. He is down from a pack a day of regular cigarettes to about half that and hopes to kick the habit by the end of the year.

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