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Protect teens from death

Florida Times-Union - 1/7/2020

Progress is so difficult on health issues that society must make every effort to prevent slippage.

So it is worrisome that decades of progress involving childhood diseases are being lost to most unfounded fears about vaccines.

And now, after decades of good progress involving smoking is being threatened by vaping technology.

The Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids calls the use of e-cigarettes by youth "a public health crisis." Rates have skyrocketed to epidemic levels, reports the U.S. Surgeon General.

In just two years, from 2017 to 2019, e-cigarette use more than doubled to 1 in 4 high schoolers.

Finally, the federal government has taken a few steps to limit vaping to minors but those steps are too weak to be effective.

E-cigarettes often come in harmless-looking forms like USB sticks or pens.

But the harm is undeniable when they produce an aerosol that contains nicotine.

E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the following statements:

• E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular smoked tobacco products.

However, the Federal Drug Administration said in a court brief that the claim that vaping helps smokers quit in "meaningful numbers" is unproven. No e-cigarette manufacturer has ever applied to the FDA with such evidence.

• E-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

• For people who have never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don't start.

While rates of smoking have declined in the United States, it remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death.

In fact, every year nearly 500,000 Americans die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, reports the American Lung Association.

"The American Lung Association is very concerned that we are at risk of losing another generation to tobacco-caused diseases as the result of e-cigarettes," the association states on its website.

It should be obvious that inhaling foreign substances into your lungs isn't good for you. In fact, users of e-cigarettes are inhaling propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin.

The long-term effects of using e-cigarettes is not known but it is like playing with fire with your health given what we already know about smoking tobacco products.

The FDA has ordered companies to stop manufacturing, distributing and selling most cartridge-based e-cigarette flavors by early February in order to reduce teen vaping. However, a number of organizations say this is weak.

While the ban relates to fruit and mint-flavored pods popular with the young, it does not apply to menthol or tobacco-flavored cartridges. It also doesn't apply to liquids used in open-tank systems typically sold by vaping stores that cater to adults.

E-cigarettes are uniquely appealing to youth because they mask the harshness and taste of nicotine.

There are over 15,000 available e-cigarette flavors, most of which are unaffected by the federal ban. Flavors like cotton candy and gummy bears come as liquids, not pods, and are not affected by the policy.

The Trump administration also is preparing to raise the legal age to buy tobacco in the nation to 21, a move that the Florida Legislature has refused to take.

And 1 in 4 teens who vape move to tobacco products within a year.

Meanwhile, states have irresponsibly moved revenue from tobacco settlements into general funds rather than use them for their intended purpose, to publicize the dangers of smoking.

How bad is it? Just 3 percent of settlement funds and tobacco taxes will be spent in 2020 on prevention and cessation programs, reports the American Cancer Society.

Only six states appropriate more than 50 percent of the recommended funding, and not Florida where just 15 percent of settlement funds have been earmarked for Tobacco Free Florida.

Funding for Tobacco Free Florida was increased to $70.4 million in fiscal year 2019.

There has been some progress, however. Thanks to a Constitutional Amendment, e-cigarettes are included in existing smoke-free protections.

Addiction involving nicotine takes hundreds of thousands of American lives every year. Vaping should not make it worse.

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