Colorado teens vape more than teens in any other state studied by federal researchers and at twice the rate of the national average. That's according to federal research on vaporizers, or e-cigarettes, and it leads health experts to warn that teens either misunderstand or underestimate the risks.
Rise Above Colorado, a Broomfield-based drug prevention organization, recently surveyed more than 600 youth statewide about their attitudes and use of drugs and alcohol. The results showed that more than three-fourths of those who vape believe they are using nicotine-free flavoring even though almost all products sold at convenience stores contain nicotine.
Many teens have a misconception that vaping is safe or harmless, said Stanton Glantz, a national researcher and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, based in California, during a visit with Colorado health experts hosted by Banner Health and the American Lung Association.
"The ultrafine particles that the e-cigarettes use to deliver the nicotine into your lungs are themselves dangerous," Glantz said. "They increase a risk of heart disease, lung disease."
E-cigarettes can be bought in a variety of flavors — from mango to tutti frutti. That makes them even more appealing to teens and experimentation with the different flavors can lead to vaping over a longer period of time, according to Glantz.
"The kids like to experiment with a lot of different flavors that prolongs the period of experimentation and gives it the time it takes for the nicotine to change their brain and generate the addiction," he said.
Glantz believes one way to stop teens from vaping is to pass legislation that prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco products. While Colorado hasn't taken that step, a bill introduced in the legislature this session would allow local governments to regulate nicotine products.
Last year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Colorado teens vape at the highest rate of the 37 states it was able to survey.