American Academy of Pediatrics calls for laws to discourage e-cigarettes

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NEW YORK (CBS) The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for new federal regulations to discourage children and teenagers from using e-cigarettes. More than 20 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes last year, an almost 80 percent increase from the previous year.

"Why do you think e-cigarettes and the tobacco industry make e-cigarettes with candy flavors like gummy bears, cotton candy and smores? Rocky? It's because they want to attract the young generation," said a teacher speaking to a classroom of students at P.S. 19 in the Bronx.

The sixth graders are learning about the dangers of vaping. They are taking part in the Catch My Breath E-cigarette and Juul Prevention Program aimed at combating the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes among American children and teenagers.

"Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to use conventional cigarettes," said Dr. Susan Walley, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement Monday calling for new federal regulations, including
setting a minimum age of 21 to buy the products, banning online sales and youth-targeted marketing, and stopping production of certain flavored e-cigarette products.

"E-cigarettes are not safe because they contain toxic chemicals -- many of which are found in cigarettes -- as well as nicotine, which we know is an addictive substance," Dr. Walley said.

Catch my Breath was developed for 6th -12th graders. It's currently taught in 20 states and reaches more than 30,000 students.

"What I liked about the program is a lot of group activities. They came up with ways to be self-reliant and get away from peer pressure," said Timothy Sullivan, the principal at P.S. 19.

Students we spoke to seem to be getting the message.

"If you know what's inside of them -- and it could be harmful -- then it's easy to say no," said Rocky Simoni a 6th grader.

Reporter Hilary Lane: Would you ever smoke e-cigarettes?
Victoria Franciamore, 6th grader :No, now that I learned it's really bad I definitely will not do it.

The program is expected to expand to 200,000 students next year.

JUUL Labs released a statement to CBS News saying its products are intended for current adult smokers only and the company strongly supports raising the minimum purchase age to 21.