Editorial: Limiting nicotine levels in vape products just makes sense

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President Donald Trump’s vow to remove flavored vaping products from the market, focused attention on reducing the allure of electronic cigarettes for young people. A new measure proposed by 8th District U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi advances the issue in some important ways. It decreases the health threat from vaping for people of any age, and it adds another tool for controlling nicotine addiction among young vapers.

Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, notes that the most-recent generation of e-cigarettes can contain nearly three times as much nicotine as earlier versions, greatly increasing their addictive potential. He wants to establish a maximum level in keeping with that of the earlier vaping technologies and in line with regulations in Europe and other foreign countries.

The approach clearly merits support.

As it stands now, a single vape pod can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of combustible cigarettes. Typical users may go through one or two pods a day, but heavy vapers can use as many as three or four. Any way you count it, that’s a lot of nicotine. The health impact of such quantities is troubling enough for adults. It is even more so for young people, who, despite laws like those in Illinois forbidding the sale of vaping products to anyone younger than 21, have taken the habit to epidemic proportions.

“For a young brain … all the way up to the age of 25, that nicotine load causes tremendous harm to their neuro cognitive functions, their brain functions to the learning and attention and mood functions and so forth,” Krishnamoorthi said in an interview with our editorial board this week.

A lot of negative attention has focused on vaping in recent months that may help reduce the habit among young people, but the most recent statistics remain alarming. The Centers for Disease Control says that in 2018, nearly 5 percent of middle school students acknowledged vaping in the past 30 days, compared to barely more than a half-percent seven years ago. For high school students, the figures are nearly 21 percent compared to less than 2 percent. Citing preliminary data, the FDA says the high school number is soaring to 27.5 percent in 2019.

The only good level of nicotine consumption, of course, is zero, but for people who insist on using these products, whatever their age, it’s imperative to limit their exposure. Krishnamoorthi said countries with lower limits are seeing marked reductions in youth vaping as the products become less appealing and less addictive.

“That has to be where we go with this particular story,” he said. “We don’t want to repeat what we saw with regular cigarettes, or opioids. We’ve seen those movies before, and we cannot have the same outcome here.”

Approaches like the legislation he has proposed can help assure that we don’t.

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October 11, 2019 at 11:32AM

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