Increased number of mid-Missouri youth using e-cigarettes

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COLUMBIA - New information released Thursday reveals more teenagers are choosing to smoke e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes nationwide. Local experts said the same trend is happening among mid-Missouri youth. 

Dr. Kevin Everett, with MU Family and Community Medicine, said he thinks part of the problem is misinformation. 

He said, "Part of it is that there is a perception out there that e-cigarettes are safe and don't have any health harms. There's a lot we don't know about those products, but initial studies looking at the ingredients in vapors are definitely showing that there are harmful chemicals in there."

Another problem leaving physicians worried is the effects on young brains. Everett said, "Getting addicted as an adolescent is particularly challenging because the adolescent brain is more susceptible to addiction."

Columbia City Council members are trying to do their part in breaking the trend. The council passed an ordinance Monday forbidding businesses from selling tobacco or vapor products to people under 21 within city limits. Everett said he thinks the new policy will help. 

"By raising it to 21, you're taking the primary source, which some research says 90 percent of underage youth get their tobacco products from their peers," he said. "You're going to take that source away and that's what is going to limit underage tobacco use in our city."