The debate over e-cigarettes recently re-ignited when the head of the American Vaping Association came to Alaska to challenge state health officials.

Vaping enthusiasts maintain that inhaling heated liquids is safer than smoking tobacco, and is an effective way to quit smoking regular cigarettes.

State health officials maintain that there’s not enough information to support those claims, and say studies have found at least 9 chemicals in vaping clouds that are known carcinogens and toxins.

I’m willing to give the vaping industry the benefit of the doubt that e-cigarettes are likely safer than regular cigarettes.

But we don’t really know how much safer.

What we do know is that Alaska high school kids report using e-cigarettes more than normal cigarettes – about 5 times more.

According to the state Health Department’s latest survey, teen smoking in Alaska has dropped from 7.4% to 3.7% since 2007. That’s great news.

But nearly 18 percent of Alaska teens (17.7) almost 1 in 5, say they currently use electronic cigarettes. Not so good news.

So on the positive side, fewer teens are smoking. On the other hand more than twice as many Alaska teens are potentially using nicotine than they were 8 years ago.

Not all vaping liquids contain nicotine, but health officials are still concerned about what’s in the cloud.

So the vaping industry can’t have it both ways. It can’t promote the cessation benefits of vaping, without acknowledging the potential health concerns, especially for kids.

The industry is actively recruiting kids, with flavors like Cherry Crush, Cotton Candy and Fruit Loops.

I’m not suggesting Alaska vendors promote these products, but they’re easily available online.

Look, I don’t care what you do as an adult. If vaping helps you kick your addiction to nicotine, that’s a great alternative.

But creating a new generation addicted to nicotine, even if it’s safer than cigarettes, could result in another lifelong habit.

So in the debate between the vaping industry and State Health officials, I’ll side with the state.

We don’t know if e-cigarettes are safe, but we know they’re not healthy. And here’s to the Health Department doing everything it can to keep our kids from picking up the habit.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.

The post Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Alaska’s E-Cigarette debate appeared first on KTVA 11.