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Brooklyn Catholic School Turns To Hands-On Science In Fight Against Teen's Epidemic Use Of Toxic E-Cigarettes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's a trend most medical and science experts are calling an epidemic: Teenagers using e-cigarettes without knowing the harm it's doing to their bodies.

Now one Brooklyn Catholic school is teaching it's students to just say no, reports CBS2's John Dias.

By the time Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School students are done with a new classroom experiment, every single one of them should know that answer, but 17-year-old Calvin Nicely is already ahead of the curve.

"Your body is dying, when you put things like this in your body, it makes you weak," said Nicely, now a senior.

He and his peers at the Clinton Hill high school are taking part in a novel experiment created by Cornell University. They're directly testing the effects e-cigarette vapor has on living cells.

"Seeing this shows that you're not immune to anything," said 11th grader Nadda Bain.

The 50 students are comparing untreated cells to cells treated with e-cigarette vapor.

When the students actually look into the microscope, what they're looking for is mobility or lack of mobility of each single-cell organism. The ones exposed to vapor move more slowly before ultimately dying.

Faculty say the experiment is the perfect way to apply science to real-world scenarios.

"It's better they see the side effects now through a hands-on experiment," said Orlando Santiago, Science Department chairperson at Bishop Loughlin.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse says teens are more likely to use e-cigarettes than traditional smokes. Researchers estimate 5 million American high schoolers use them.

"Well, not me, but a lot of kids our age are vaping now," said 10th-grader Brinesha Derrick. "That's kind of a trendy thing."

"I think it's important to realize there is no safe smoking of anything," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

In a matter of months or even weeks, vaping could drastically impact someone's lungs, said Horovitz.

"The small airways of the lung become inflamed and scarred, and this could lead to an irretrievably damaging process," he said.

Side effects this school is hoping students will learn about - and never have to experience.

For more information about Cornell's toolkit for testing e-cigarettes, see the university's website.

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