NEW ORLEANS - A Louisiana lawmaker wants electronic cigarettes banned to minors in the upcoming legislative session.
And while some say they are not a health risk, a cancer expert has concerns about them getting into the wrong hands.
Light up and 4,000 chemical compounds are created.. Doctors say 69 are known to cause cancer. Lighter fluid, carbon monoxide, and sewer gas are among the chemicals. Although there is limited scientific data on them, some people believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative. They are battery-powered, giving smokers just aerosol puffs of nicotine, without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
"As this becomes more and more common, we're increasingly concerned about a rise again in youth smoking," said Dr. Edward Trapido, an assistant dean of research at the LSU School of Public Health at LSU Health Sciences Center.
Nicotine speeds up the heart 20 beats a minute. It raises blood pressure, and makes all your blood vessels smaller, so the heart works harder to pump blood and it causes your stored fat and cholesterol to be dumped into the blood stream.
"Nicotine is the most addictive drug of any drug. They actually compared it to heroin (and cocaine). Yes, I'm really concerned that's going to be a growing problem and it's something to watch out for in the state," he added.
And some e-cigarettes have fruit, mint or chocolate flavorings. Unlike traditional cigarettes, you can buy a single e-cigarette and advertise them on TV. There are concerns marketing them to the young will entice new underage customers.
"It's starting to show up in movies, so what we're seeing is the exact same story that happen with the promotion of tobacco," said Dr. Trapido. "But it's being marketed towards kids, so kids get addicted to nicotine and then they do a switch and they go back to cigarettes."
It's a cool, new trend this cancer expert fears people are following.
"I'm very concerned that this is a new product (and) it's not really regulated," said Dr. Trapido.
At least 27 states have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors according to the national conference of state legislatures.
Sen. Rick Gallot, a Democrat, whose Senate District 29 includes parts of Rapides, Grant, Natchitoches and Winn parishes, introduced the bill for consideration in the legislative session that begins March 10.
Senate Bill 12 would add e-cigarettes and other “alternative nicotine products” to the list of items that can’t be sold to minors in Louisiana.