By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – Teens in Colorado are smoking fewer cigarettes but still finding harmful ways to get a nicotine buzz.

denver 4 Colorado Teens Often Unaware Of Vaping Dangers

(credit: CBS)

The trend of vaping nicotine is growing. The most recent study by the CDC found that specifically Colorado youth are vaping nicotine at twice the national average and at the highest rate of 37 states surveyed.

The state health department says half of Colorado high school students who have tried vaping nicotine don’t see it as risky and think vaping products are easy to get, even though it is illegal to purchase them as minors.

“Vaping has replaced cigarettes as a way for underaged youth to use nicotine,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Too many of our young people don’t realize the health risks involved.”

Others see it as just a more convenient version of the same problem.

“I think just the appeal of it. I think some kids see it,” said Alan Haught, co-owner of the Vapor Shop in Westminster.

denver 1 Colorado Teens Often Unaware Of Vaping Dangers

(credit: CBS)

Haught has personally seen many use nicotine vaping as a way for many to cut cigarette and nicotine use altogether.

“He tried everything under the sun to try to quit. Chantex, gum, the whole 9 yards. Nothing worked.”

After nearly 40 years of cigarettes, Haught’s stepfather found a way to quit through nicotine vaping. It was the reason his family opened the vape store in the first place.

denver 2 Colorado Teens Often Unaware Of Vaping Dangers

Several teens CBS4 interviewed on Tuesday said they avoid vaping because they learned about its bad effects in school. (credit: CBS)

The Vapor shop caters to anyone (over 18) interested in vaping various concentrations of nicotine. It was one of the first vape shops in Colorado, opening right along side recreational marijuana shops.

“Not a lot of people were using it [nicotine vaporizers], we were still in business but there wasn’t a massive national spotlight on it like there is now,” said Haught.

Haught believes it’s not much different from the cigarette craze he grew up on the tail end of; teens think it looks cool.

“I think others look at it like I might have looked at cigarettes when I was 15,” Haught recalled, “And at the end of the day, while the study may say there’s an increase in the 18 to 19-year-old demo, I think that’s just become the ease of access.”

Haught says he is well aware of the dangers of nicotine. His goal more than selling product is to educate people.

The Health Department has launched a statewide campaign to address the rise in use.

The campaign’s comprehensive TobaccoFreeCo.org site contains free materials, including tips on starting the conversation and a Vaping 101 fact sheet. It also includes information meant to destroy the myth that vaping is safe and raise awareness about the health risks of using nicotine.

Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.

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