COMMACK, N.Y. (FOX 5 NY) - E-cigarette use, or vaping, among young people has reached epidemic proportions, according to the U.S. surgeon general, who put out a warning on Tuesday to protect children.
"It's not only the nicotine," said Dr. Michael Smith, the chief medical editor at WebMD. "They're breathing in all kinds of chemicals, flavors that we know cause serious lung damage."
Officials are concerned about the availability and marketing of products to entice youngsters. E-cigarette use among high school students increased 78 percent over the past year and more than 20 percent of high schoolers vape, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
These alarming statistics are causing some local officials in Suffolk County to take action.
Legislator William Spencer is proposing a bill to limit flavored e-cigarettes.
"We can keep the mint, the menthol—I don't want to limit adults' rights but I said, 'Let's take out the flavors,'" Spencer said. "Our kids—this is about protecting them."
But many vape shop owners say this would put them out of business. It's not so much the flavors but the high levels of nicotine. They say kids who want to smoke will find ways of doing so.
"We're ID-ing, we're not letting children in, we're not marketing to children," vape shop owner Kathryn Lagoudes said. "This community is not geared towards children. We're really there to help those that want to quit smoking traditional cigarettes."
In his warning, Surgeon General Jerome Adams specifically said that nicotine can mess with the developing brain and that it is addictive.
Both Nassau and Suffolk counties have legislation in place restricting the sale of the devices to those under 21.