A new study shows that many teenagers who use e-cigarettes do not understand the amount of addictive nicotine they are inhaling.
The study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that 40 percent of adolescents who believed they were only using nicotine-free products were actually vaping significant amounts of the substance.
The research involved 517 adolescents, aged 12 to 21, who were questioned about their use of e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes and marijuana.
Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York state compared adolescents' responses about their use of such substances against urine samples taken from the teenagers. They found that almost all of the respondents were honest about their substance use, however, they discovered the biggest discrepancy in the study came from teens who thought they were using nicotine-free e-cigarettes.
"Many of our participants were unaware of the nicotine content of the e-cigarette products they were using," the researchers concluded.
Pros and cons
The study comes at a time when the popularity of e-cigarettes is on the rise and their use has become a divisive topic in the public health community.
Advocates for e-cigarettes say the products have the potential to shift lifelong smokers of traditional cigarettes onto less-harmful nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, while critics say that vaping risks bringing a new generation into nicotine addiction. Critics also point out that the health effects from the chemicals in e-cigarettes are not fully known.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, but they do not contain tar or many of the other substances in traditional cigarettes, which make them deadly. Battery-powered e-cigarettes turn liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor.
Use among teens
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes at drug stores and gasoline stations in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of young people.
U.S. federal law bans the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 years of age. But a study published last year found that 1 in 5 high school students report using the devices — an activity known as vaping.