AUGUSTA, Ga.– A tough look at the problem of kids smoking.

Your child could be setting herself up for a lifetime of compromised health…  and when you realize that nearly 90% of adult smokers started using cigarettes before they were 18, it makes sense.

Listen to this:

“The adolescent brain is much more addictive to nicotine than if you try tobacco for the first time in any form when you get to college,” explains Dr. Martha S. Tingen, Charles W. Linder, MD Chair in Pediatrics and associate director of the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, is the Director of the Tobacco Control program at the Georgia Cancer Center.

Dr. Tingen is currently conducting a one-of-its-kind study about adolescent and teenage smoking.

Call to enroll your teen smoker in new study at AU

Nearly 11% of high school students now report smoking cigarettes. The number has been on the decline since 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, the CDC is worried about what teens say they’re doing instead: 24% of high schoolers say they’ve used e-cigarettes in a 30 day period.

“The use of e-cigarettes among youth has increased nine-fold in the last four years. Nine-fold.”

It’s a trend that seems to be growing. In 2011, the number was less than 5%.

“E-cigarettes are not a healthy alternative. They also contain nicotine and nicotine is what us damaging to your body. Nicotine is what is so addictive. So, even thought they think they’re now smoking a vapor and ‘it’s not as bad for me, I’m not inhaling,’ all the evidence on e-cigarettes is not in, but it is NOT a healthy alternative.”

Only people 18 years and older can purchase the devices.

The CDC says if teens continue smoking at the current rate, 5.6 million of them will die early from smoking-related illness, a statistic that is preventable, according to Dr. Tingen.

“It is so addictive and people do need help. It is a very rare person that can truly quit, whether it’s a child or an adult, that can quit cold turkey.”

A one-of-its kind adolescent smoking study is underway now at Augusta University Health.  12-to-16-year-old smokers are needed.  The study is highly supervised with a team of child specialists. Parents, you can call 706-721-8418 for more information.