CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- Cigarette use among teens has dropped sharply in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the number of teens who are vaping is growing exponentially.
"The rate of vaping in teens has gone up by 900 percent," said Tzu-Ying Chuang, a University of Virginia medical student who reviewed the latest teen vaping research while working at Downtown Family Health Care clinic this summer.
Vaping involves the use of battery powered devices that heat liquid that often contains nicotine. Users can blow huge clouds of smoke, and vaping has often been touted as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. But Chuang said research suggests vaping does carry health risks.
"Teenagers who had previously vaped, or are currently vaping, are two times more likely to have symptoms of chronic bronchitis," she said.
Unlike cigarettes, which have an odor that can be hard to disguise, vaping is less detectable.
But Smoke Brake Vapes owner Tracy Riffel said there is an olfactory giveaway parents might notice.
"One of the things I notice is there's a maple-syrupy smell," she said.
Riffel said her store and other vaping businesses bar anyone under 18, in accordance with state law, and she doesn't want to see minors using the products.
"Every vape shop I can think of has had signs posted saying nobody under 18 allowed, must show ID every time you come in, that sort of thing," she said.
But both Riffel and Chuang agree that teens who want to vape will probably find a way, so the best deterrent is talking to them about vaping.
"Are any of your friends doing it? What do you know about it," Chuang suggests parents ask their teens.
She said providing teens information is critical, particularly for those who may have pre-existing conditions like asthma.