NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - We are facing a new public health emergency. That's the word from the feds tonight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use has tripled among kids and teens in just one year.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the findings of a 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey are astounding and concerning. While e-cigarette use among middle- and high-school-aged students tripled, hookah use doubled from 2013 to 2014.
"Unfortunately, kids are going to go to irresponsible vendors and they are going to get their hands on these or they're going to have friends buy them," said Anthony Kolesa with the Louisiana Association of Electronic Cigarette Retailers.
Kolesa also owns several e-cigarette shops in the New Orleans area. He says members of his organization are doing what they can to make sure no one under 18 is able to buy vaping products.
"I don't know of any vape shops that ever have - intentionally, anyway - sold to minors, but we absolutely are trying to get more members on board because we are big on self-regulation, self-imposed policing, basically, so that we can make sure that we are doing the right thing," Kolesa said.
Kolesa adds that members of the Louisiana Association of Electronic Cigarette Retailers are posting signs to their stores that say "no one under 18," while also making sure customers are carded before they buy.
But the CDC and the FDA says parents and educators should be very concerned because e-cigarette and hookah use is rising exponentially among teens.
"Electronic cigarettes contain and deliver nicotine. Nicotine is very dangerous to the developing child and adolescent brain. Parents should take no comfort that their kids are using an e-cigarette rather than a burning cigarette because of the presence of nicotine," said Mitch Zeller, Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products.
And while Kolesa believes e-cigarettes are a better alternative to smoking, he says he doesn't want kids vaping.
"This is a product that does emulate smoking cigarettes, and we don't want that, you know? There is fear that this could lead to people who aren't smokers smoking. That's not anything that we ever want to have happen," Kolesa said.
The FDA says the good news is that cigarette and cigar use continues to drop among middle- and high-school-aged students. But, they say that progress is being threatened by the use of e-cigarettes.
The Louisiana Association of Electronic Cigarette Retailers tells us that their members go through state testing to make sure they are able to spot fake IDs and know what to look for if someone is trying to buy vaping products who are not old enough to do so.