E-Cigarettes Appealing to Under-Age Audiences (NBC33 VIDEO)

By Eric DeFreeuw

September 9, 2013 Updated Sep 9, 2013 at 9:46 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (NBC33) – A new smoking device has hit the market that should have parents taking a closer look at their child’s shopping habits.

When it was first introduced, many thought e-cigarettes were an alternative to patches and gum as a way to quit smoking. As the Food and Drug Administration is finding out, these can contain just as much – if not more tobacco and nicotine as regular cigarettes.

Another reason parents are showing concern is that, because e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, there are no standards for how these can be marketed and sold.

"This is just the tobacco industry at their best,” says Jill Leal, the Executive Director for Tobacco-Free Allen County. “They are re-creating a cigarette in the electronic form. I mean you had at one time flavored cigarettes, you had scented cigarettes and cigarillos and all these other products. This is just another new product that they are phasing in that the FDA hasn't had the opportunity to catch up on to regulate. And they're going to ride it out as long as they can."

Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes can be advertised on television and appear to be targeting under-age audiences, like high school students - sometimes younger.

"They have not had enough time to do the proper research that they need to have conclusive evidence to put out to the community,” points out Leal. “It’s a very new product. They have e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, e-cigars. The tobacco industry is really good about finding those loopholes to create these new products to place in the market before the FDA has the opportunity to really put their stamp of approval and regulations on."

According to Youth Tobacco surveys, in Indiana a growing number of middle school students are starting to smoke for the first time. Indiana, however, is only one of 15 states that currently mandates buyers be at least 18-years-old.

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