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Old Threat With New Face Emerges

For decades, two of the major obstacles in the way of saving lives by reducing tobacco consumption were that many people began smoking before the health risks were well known — and that tobacco is a perfectly legal product.

But we have known for many years that nicotine is harmful. And selling nicotine products to children is not legal.

How is it, then, that we are permitting a whole new generation of West Virginians to become addicted to the drug? Is it that Mountain State adults do not care about the health of our children and grandchildren?

Of course not. We suspect the new wave of addicts got a head start on us because few people understood what was happening. That is, few people outside the e-cigarette, or vaping, industry.

Vaping is use of nicotine laden cartridges in devices that produce an inhalable vapor. No tobacco smoke is involved. Some nicotine addicts say vaping has been a godsend, in that it helps wean them off smoking.

But the relative improvement over smoking also attracts many children — and “relative” does not mean safe. Vaping can result in addiction to nicotine, which is harmful to the body in numerous ways.

Making the practice more attractive to youngsters is the fact that manufacturers produce vaping cartridges in a variety of fun flavors.

West Virginians are getting a wakeup call. Last week, state Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp told legislators more than one-third of high school students in the state report they use e-cigarettes.

About one-sixth of middle school students use the devices, Slemp added.

Vaping “has gone up among high schoolers in the last two years (by) 150%,” she noted.

“We are addicting the next generation to tobacco products and nicotine,” Slemp warned.

No, no, no!

No doubt state government can do more to curb this new crisis. If new laws are needed, pass them. If intensive law enforcement and education initiatives are required, get moving on them.

But we adults, mostly through our roles as parents and guardians, are the real key to switching off the vaping epidemic among our children.

Let’s get moving on it.

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