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STATE HOUSE–Vaping has lost its luster with many people, who no longer see it as a safe way to quit smoking. Some of Indiana’s lawmakers have vowed to make it much tougher for Hoosier kids to get a hold of e-caigarettes. But, one expert says vaping is much safer than caigarettes, and he doesn’t believe the evidence points to teenagers being led to smoking through vaping.

“If you’re a smoker and you’ve been unable to quit or you have no interest in quitting, you oughtta know that if you if you continue smoking for many years, you’ve got a 30 to 50 percent risk of dying from a cigarette-related illness,” said Dr. Joel Nitzkin, a national tobacco expert, who has a preventive medicine practice in New Orleans.

“Vaping nicotine instead, where you just get nicotine, you don’t get all the other nasty chemicals in cigarette smoke, will reduce your risk by 95 percent or more, probably by 99 percent or more,” he said.

A study from Johns Hopkins Health found that cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful. That includes urea and amonia, besides nicotine. “There’s almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes,” said Johns Hopkins clinical researcher Dr. Michael Blaha.

But, the same study showed that both forms of inhaling contain nicotine, which is the addictive substance.

While Nitzkin acknowledged that it is never safe to inhale anything into your lungs that doesn’t belong there, he still believes that vaping is a better alternative.

“Vaping is a substitute for cigarette smoking…and should be seen as a way of weaning yourself off cigarettes and nicotine entirely over time,” he said.

He said teenagers who experiment with nicotine are just as likely to smoke cigarettes as they are to vape.

“We have very little evidence of individual kids starting off vaping and going to smoking,” he said. “There are huge numbers of kids who start off smoking and go to vaping to get off of cigarettes.”

The Indiana Dept. of Health and Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, along with Gov. Holcomb, have vowed to make e-cigarettes much harder to get for teenagers in Indiana.

“The number of teens using e-cigarettes is shocking,” said Rep. Ciny Kirchoffer (R-Beech Grove), who is supporting the effort. “More needs to be done to keep these addictive and dangerous products out of the hands of young Hoosiers.”

“Some are even led to believe this is a healthier alternative to smoking, which is not true,” she said.

The information provided by Johns Hopkins is more in agreement with Kirchoffer.  “A recent study found that most people who intended to use e-cigarettes to kick the nicotine habit ended up continuing to smoke both traditional and e-cigarettes,” said an article from the institution.

That same information said that thanks to vaping, a new generation of people is addicted to nicotine. About a quarter of Indiana’s population smokes.

PHOTO: Katarzyna Bialaseiwicz/Thinkstock