HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Nearly half of all young adults in Hawaii have tried an electronic cigarette, according to a new report.
"Anecdotally, we're told that it's more prevalent in Hawaii than other states," said Pallav Pokhrel, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's Cancer Center.
"Right now, it seems like electronic use is even higher among younger adults than cigarette use."
Pokhrel is the lead author of a study on e-cigarette use among Hawaii's young adults. The report, which looked at usage among 300 young adult, found that about 43 percent between the ages of 18 and 35 have tried e-cigarettes once.
And that 28 percent tried it for the first time during a recent 30-day period.
"Hawaii has taken to e-cigarettes more quickly than a lot of mainland markets specially because Hawaii has the most smokers per capita," said Scott Rasak, marketing manager of Volcano E-Cigs.
There's little doubt that vapors from e-cigs are safer than traditional smoke but some fear that e-cigs are luring more younger people into tobacco addiction.
"It's definitely a concern that e-cigarettes are like a gateway. Once people get hooked on the nicotine, they they'll switch over to regular cigarettes, which are extremely dangerous," said Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang.
Chang and Council Chairman Ernie Martin introduced a measure to increase the minimum age for e-cigs and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.
A similar measure was approved on the Big Island earlier this month.
"The FDA has never cleared e-cigs as safe. In fact the number of calls to poison control centers due to consumption of cigarette liquids has more than doubled," Chang said.
But e-cig users said the bill will eliminate a safe alternative for young smokers.
"It's gotta be better to than smoking. I'm not putting something I set on fire into my lungs," said Makiki resident David Schultz.