A recent survey estimates 1.7 million American teens smoke electronic cigarettes - and that most of them have also tried traditional cigarettes. Now, a closer look at electronic cigarettes and potential health risks to young smokers.
"E cigarettes were originally designed in 2004 to replace regular cigarettes. Basically they're a way of providing nicotine without actually smoking cigarettes. They're comprised of a mouthpiece that holds the nicotine. There's a device as well called an atomizer which moisturizes the nicotine compound and allows it to be pushed into the lungs." And Freeman Cardiologist Ryan Longnecker says the idea is to eliminate some of the risks that come with traditional cigarettes. "We know that when someone burns a cigarette there are 43 carcinogens that develop in addition to 4,000 other chemicals that are in that smoke. And those can go into the lungs and can cause various things. The things we most commonly think about are lung cancer and heart disease."
Dr. Longnecker adds that federal authorities are still looking into potential health risks specific to e cigarettes. "Right now that big debate is whether or not the FDA is even going to approve it. They've been banned in Canada already and there's a good change that that's going to happen in the United States. But we don't know what happens when someone just inhales nicotine over a 3, 5, 10 year period."