Experts are calling teen vaping an epidemic.
KCTV5 News went into a local vape shop to ask how the devices are getting into the hands of kids at such an alarming rate.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said it has never seen a tobacco product spread as fast among young people as e-cigs and vaping devices are right now.
Ninety-nine percent of these devices contain nicotine, and doctors told KCTV5 that means our kids are getting more and more addicted every day.
Tim O’Connor, general manager at KC Vapes in Overland Park, said the vaping business as a whole is booming.
“In a two-mile radius of this store, right now, there are approximately 12 vape shops. A lot of competition," he said.
When KCTV5’s Joe Chiodo asked if he has ever had teens come in attempting to buy, he responded fast.
“Absolutely yea we’ve had a few,” O’Connor explained.
Signs are posted in the shop and on the front of the door, warning teens to not even try.
O’Connor ID’s his customers no matter who they are.
“We don’t want this getting into the wrong hands. We’re very sensitive about nicotine. We realize it’s in the products and we don’t want that to fall into the wrong hands,” he said.
Dr. Eric Peters leads the pediatric ICU at Overland Park Regional and says a recent study from a 2017 Monitoring The Future report speaks volumes.
The report shows: 11-percent of seniors have vaped in the last month. 8.5-percent of tenth graders And 3.5-percent of eighth-graders"We worry about it, but we don’t know a lot about it. It’s still smoking. It’s still nicotine. It’s still addictive and has health consequences throughout a person’s life,” Peters said.
Peters described today’s youth as test subjects.
“We won’t know the true impact of inhaling these chemicals – until years down the road," he said.
The Surgeon General warns vape usage is up 900-percent in teens in recent years.
Experts with the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids say children are getting them from: Shops that don’t follow the law Older friends purchasing for them The internetA high school recently opened up its doors to show the severity of the problem.
"They'd come in here and you'd have four or five kids at a time, congregating and they'd start to vape," the principal said.
"In the back two desks in the corner, they had their hands kind of up like this, and there was a blue light coming from their hands," a teacher explained.
One of the most popular devices amongst teens is the “Juul” device. It delivers double the nicotine. Parents said it looks like a USB device, easily deceiving them.
O’Connor said KC Vapes will not sell it because he knows teens will try to buy.
Critics take issue with the fact that such devices are marketed towards teens. They’re colorful, boast the latest technology, and the flavorings taste good.
KCTV5 asked O’Connor if he believes the flavors he sells are attracting teens.
“I can tell you we don’t market towards teens," he said.
But some of the flavors at KC Vapes, and all vape shops in the Kansas City area, include flavors such as freeze pop, lemon cake, strawberry and many more.
“Everybody wants variety, no matter age," O’Connor said.
He added that vaping is not all bad. He said there is an aspect to the story that many people ignore. He said most of his customers use vapes to better themselves and kick the old habit
“Our theory from day one has been to help people stop smoking,” O’Connor said.
Peters said, right now, the evidence does point to the device being safer than cigarettes, but he explains there’s a lot that is still unknown.
“I see that you’re not inhaling something that’s burning you’re not inhaling campfire smoke, but you’re choosing one bad thing over another bad thing," he said.
His message to parents is to talk to your kids about the dangers. He said most parents he’s talked to had no idea their son or daughter was even using the device.
The Juul is now spending $30 million to fund research on underage vaping and assemble an expert panel. This comes after the Food and Drug Administration said it was marketing towards teens.
Overland Park Regional says another concern is that the vaping oils and juices ending up in the hands of babies and toddlers in the house.
Doctors say they have treated multiple children for nicotine toxicity from either drinking the fluid or getting it on their skin.
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