Proposed legislation would outlaw teenagers under 18 years old from buying electronic cigarettes in the state of Georgia. Experts worry that electronic cigarette usage among young people will lead to cigarette smoking down the road.
"We've seen over the last two years, the rates that teenagers use e-cigs double," said Michael Eriksen, the dean of the School of Public Health at Georgia State.
With commercials featuring celebrities, experts say electronics cigarettes are becoming the new trend among teenagers.
"They are pretty popular because you can buy them at any age, and you can just buy them at a gas station," said Bella Dhavan, who attends a middle school in Decatur. Dhavan said she doesn't use the e-cigs, but knows classmates that do.
Electronic cigarettes, which usually contain liquid nicotine, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A few other states have banned their sale to those under 18 years old, according to Eriksen.
"It is bad enough inhaling pure nicotine, and some other chemicals that are known, but you don't know if there are any contaminants in any of these products," Eriksen said.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Allan Powel (R-Hartwell), would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, or "any other product that consists of or contains nicotine that can be ingested into the body by chewing, smoking, absorbing, inhaling, or any other means."
"Absolutely, it would make sense if you have to be 18 or older to buy a real cigarette, why wouldn't you have to be 18 or older to buy a cigarette that looks like one," said Krystal Edge, a Georgia resident, who smokes.
"There is really no question it is harmful and wrong for teenagers to use these e-cigarettes. You don't know what is in them and you are starting a nicotine addiction that could lead to cigarette smoking down the road," said Eriksen. "There are anecdotal reports in ERs and poison control centers that people are coming in where e-cigs are being used as drug-delivery devices."