Our View

The movement in area communities — and nationwide — to change the age limit to purchase tobacco and vaping products is an appropriate response to ongoing concern about tobacco and increasing concerns about electronic cigarettes.

Carl Junction City Council members will give final consideration to a measure to raise the age limit for purchase of the products from 18 to 21 at their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Joplin City Council has considered tougher regulations before. The issue has been raised again recently. President Donald Trump recently said his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21.

We have adopted this device at a head-spinning rate with little reliable data on health effects, particularly over the long term. Vaping was greeted by many as a less dangerous alternative to tobacco. We have been supportive of that use for adult smokers, but recent studies have raised doubts.

The popularity of devices for the inhalation of a vapor containing nicotine has been driven by vigorous marketing campaigns, many of them clearly youth-oriented. Flavors added to the cartridges are seductive to young people. E-cigarette use has risen quickly among teens, with about 37% of 12th graders reportedly vaping in a 2018 National Institutes of Health survey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 26 deaths have been confirmed in 21 states — including Missouri — as well as 1,299 lung injury cases connected to vaping. However, about 76% of the incidents have involved THC-containing cartridges.

The liquid that is vaporized is a proprietary chemical cocktail of propylene glycol or glycerin-based liquid that, in addition to nicotine — or THC — contains flavoring agents, other chemicals and metals. There is no comprehensive ingredient list to present to consumers.

A recent Cedars-Sinai Medical Center study has revealed concern about health effects beyond the spate of lung injuries. Researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai found that the use of vaping devices may be as harmful or more harmful to the heart as traditional cigarettes.

“What makes e-cigarettes so harmful to the heart and lungs is not just nicotine,” said senior author Dr. Florian Rader, medical director of the Human Physiology Laboratory and assistant director of the Non-Invasive Laboratory at the Smidt Heart Institute. “It’s the completely unknown bucket of manufactured products used to form vapors that is likely causing the most harm. This is what we believe is underlying the current public health problem.”

In essence, the vaping industry is conducting real-time research that risks the health of Americans, especially teens who come to nicotine use through vaping. A generation of teens has become the primary subject in this uncontrolled experiment. That needs to stop.

Regulations to raise the age of purchase for tobacco and vaping products should be carefully crafted and approved.

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