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Investigation: E-cigarettes may not be safe alternative after-all

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla - New types of cigarettes and tobacco threaten to addict a younger demographic.

Gary Brown said he was able to kick a 50 year, two pack a day habit, using E-cigs. "I feel better, smell better, less hassle from my wife. I don't have to go outside and freeze."

Tiffany Schuringa opened "Planet Vaper" in Newcastle recently to help others in her community quit. The business owner believes E-cigarettes are a much safer alternative.

Schuringa said, "I did all the research on the internet. I don't break down the nicotine from a high level. I just mix the flavoring and make it taste good. We can make them taste like cigarettes. We can make them taste like anything."

There are essentially four ingredients in E cigarettes, propylene glycol, which the FDA "generally recognized as safe", vegetable glycerin, used in the food industry and pharmaceuticals as well as nicotine and flavoring.

Since the FDA doesn't regulate electronic cigarettes, there is no consistency from one vendor to next. DrPH Jennifer Lepard said, "With these products we will probably know more in a year, probably know more in five years. At this point we don't know enough to be comfortable."

And that's got opponents concerned. With flavors like Strawberry, Chocolate and Dr Pepper, "vapes" can be enticing to children.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, usage doubled in teens, grades 6 through 12 from 3.3 percent in 2011 to 6.8 percent in 2012.

The uncertainty has many government agencies and hospital campuses strengthening their "anti-smoking" policies to now include E-cigarettes.

Tiffany Schuringa believes vapes are being unnecessarily vilified. She said, "I don't think that's fair at all, because it's not a tobacco product. When you exhale, it's nothing but vapor. It's harmless."

Are they less dangerous than their smoke and ash counterparts? Health experts say, "Probably." Until research is more conclusive, health advocates warn E-cig users to "puff with caution."

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