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Young Students At P.S. 19 In The Bronx Take Part In E-Cigarette/Juul Prevention Program

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Health officials are calling for new federal regulations to try and stop the increasing e-cigarette epidemic among teens.

Since last year, there's been an almost 80 percent increase in use by high school and middle school students, CBS2's Hilary Lane reported Monday.

Sixth graders at P.S. 19 in the Bronx are learning about the dangers of vaping.

"It's very harmful," student Isabella McGowan said.

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E-Cigarette (credit: CBS2)

They are taking part in the CATCH My Breath e-cigarette and Juul prevention program, aimed at combating the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes among American children and teenagers.

"Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to use conventional cigarettes," said Dr. Susan Walley, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy statement Monday, calling for new federal regulations, including setting a minimum age of 21 to buy the products, banning online sales and youth-targeted marketing, and stopping production of certain flavored e-cigarette products.

"E-cigarettes are not safe because they contain toxic chemicals, many of which that are found in cigarettes as well as nicotine, which we know is an addictive substance," Walley said.

CATCH My Breath was developed for schoolchildren in grades 6-12. It's currently taught in 20 states and reaches more than 30,000 students.

"What I liked about the program was it did a lot of group activities. They came up with ways to be self-reliant and get away from peer pressure," P.S. 19 Principal Timothy Sullivan said.

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Students CBS2's Lane spoke to seemed to be getting the message.

"If you know what's inside of them and it could be harmful then it's easy to say no," sixth grader Rocky Simoni said.

"Now that I learned it's really bad, I definitely will not do it," sixth grader Victoria Franciamore said when asked if she would ever try e-cigarettes.

The program is expected to expand to 200,000 students next year.

E-cigarette company Juul Labs released a statement to CBS News, saying its products are intended for current adult smokers only, and the company strongly supports raising the minimum purchase age to 21.

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