March 12 (UPI) -- E-cigarettes may help people kick the habit of smoking but they're also attracting new, younger people to the potentially toxic chemical nicotine.
And many of those new e-cigarette users are likely to be young vapers, drawn to the fruit, candy and mint/menthol flavors of the product, according to new findings published Tuesday in Public Health Reports.
"The availability of appealing e-cigarette flavors was a more salient reason for vaping among adolescents and young adults than among older adults," Samir S. Soneji, a researcher at Dartmouth University and study author, said in a press release. "We found that adolescent and young adult vapers were not only more likely than older adult vapers to use fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes, but were more likely to concurrently use multiple flavor types. We also found that current cigarette smokers who tried to quit smoking in the past year were more likely than non-cigarette smokers to use tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes."
The problem with those fruit and sweet flavors is that they may cause respiratory cell inflammation, respiratory disease and irritation when inhaled, the researchers say.
And since e-cigarettes contain a lot of nicotine, researchers say, they may act as a gateway product to tobacco cigarettes. Even though at least one study says that e-cigarettes can safely help people quit smoking cigarettes altogether.
After a couple years of decline, flavored tobacco products regained popularity among middle and high schoolers a few years ago. A big part of this resurgence included e-cigarettes, which are often used along with flavor pods.
"We are looking to determine if adolescents who vape sweet-flavored e-cigarettes are more likely to initiate cigarette smoking than their counterparts who vape tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes," Soneji said. "On the other hand, we'll determine if adult cigarette smokers who vape tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes are more likely to quit cigarette smoking than their counterparts who vape sweet flavored e-cigarettes."
Last year, the then-surgeon general issued a warning calling the use of e-cigarettes an "epidemic." Much of this use cam from young people.
In fact, one in five high school students has used e-cigarettes, according to research last year.
The problem has spun so far out of control, one organization has launched a text program to help teens quit e-cigarette use.
This heavy use among young people led the Food and Drug Administration last year to raid the headquarters of e-cigarette giant Juul, in search of documents that showed the company intentionally targeted its product to kids.
In November, Juul stopped selling pods in stores last November, in response to pressure from the FDA that they helped fuel the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people.
Many of those adolescents' parents are giving the green light to vaping by doing it around them.
"Stricter regulation or banning of flavored e-cigarettes, such as fruit and candy, can achieve the dual goal of reducing youth vaping while not burdening older adult cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes to help quit," Soneji said.