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Electronic cigarettes exist in a limbo world of laws, even as use of the battery-powered nicotine vaporizer grows across the nation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to regulate e-cigarettes the way it does cigarettes or tobacco, leaving states and cities to come up with their own ordinances on how to restrict their sale and use.

Los Angeles is the most recent city to ban the use of e-cigarettes (or “vaping”) in public places. The councilmembers who voted on the law lamented the lack of scientific evidence for two seemingly opposing claims: that e-cigarettes can either help smokers quit their cigarette addiction, and that e-cigarettes are essentially a gateway for teens to cigarette smoking.

But evidence on these claims is slowly emerging. A study published today (March 6) in JAMA Pediatrics shows that e-cigarette use has doubled among teens between 2011 and 2012, with 3.1 percent of teens saying they had ever tried an e-cigarette and 1.1 percent being current e-cigarette users in 2011, compared with 6.5 percent of teens ever trying an e-cigarette and 2 percent of teens being current users in 2012. The study also establishes a link between vaping and smoking; teens who smoked e-cigarettes (even just once) were more likely to have experimented with conventional cigarettes.

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