Hub editorial: Vaping’s lure strong, but parents…


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Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs will pay nearly $440 million to settle a multi-state investigation into its vaping products, which have long been blamed for sparking a national surge in teen vaping. Connecticut announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the 33 states plus Puerto Rico. Attorneys general joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s early promotions and claims about the safety and benefits of its device as a smoking alternative. The settlement resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the company, which still faces separate lawsuits from other states and individuals. Additionally, federal health regulators are trying to ban the company’s products.

Parents, do you feel as if the distance is growing between you and your teenage son or daughter? If the answer is “yes,” that widening gap could be more than a sign that your child is growing away from you.

Distancing may be part of life, but parents need to discern what’s driving their son or daughter to abruptly become more distant. It could be a sign that he or she has made a bad decision and is trying to hide something. Distancing could be a sign that your child is nursing a vaping habit.

Before rationalizing that, “at least my kid isn’t smoking cigarettes,” consider the risk that comes with any addictive behavior. If your child has begun vaping, there’s the potential that one undesirable habit could evolve from vaping into other habits: cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs.

Good parents make it clear to their children to stay way from nicotine and all addictive substances, but in an age when misinformation thrives, it’s widely accepted among teens that vaping is safe. Teens convince themselves they won’t become addicts and that vaping won’t kill them with cancer.

Friends might tell them vaping is healthier than cigarettes, but try convincing your lungs. Teens who develop a daily habit lose lung capacity and can’t propel themselves down the basketball court like they did before vaping.

Weaker athletic performance may motivate some teens to quit their habit, but good luck with that.

A huge industry depends on hooking young people on nicotine. Keeping them hooked is why companies that peddle e-cigarette fluids have steadily boosted the addictive potential of their products, from about 1% to about 6% or higher.

Compared to tobacco products, vaping is a very cheap source of nicotine. For $20, a teen can buy the nicotine-equivalent of several cartons of cigarettes — about 40 packs, or 800 cigarettes, according to Dr. Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine. Jackler told National Public Radio this week the tobacco industry plays a cat and mouse game with federal regulators. Getting nicotine regulations approved is time consuming. Eventually a new rule will be certified, but by then the industry has figured out 10 ways around it, Jackler said.

For example, FDA’s 2020 ban on flavored cartridges had no impact on youth vaping rates because it left “an eight-lane highway of escape” for alternative technologies such as disposable devices and refillable pods, Jackler said.

Brian King, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told NPR his agency is very near the end of a massive review process and a crackdown on vaping products. NPR reported that experts expect the FDA to increase its removals of various vaping products during the next few months.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, sees signs a crackdown is near. This month, Myers told NPR that the FDA denied e-cigarette maker Logic’s application for its menthol e-cigarettes and they were pulled from the market. It was the first time FDA denied a menthol product.

Juul, the company that’s famous for making vaping popular, was targeted in June by the FDA when the agency tried to pull other e-cigarette products. The ban isn’t in effect yet because Juul is appealing the decision.

Federal regulators are fighting hard against vaping. Some states have joined the fight and tax those products to create a cost obstacle for teens. Among the six states bordering Nebraska, three tax vaping products: Kansas at 5% of wholesale value, Wyoming at 15% and Colorado at 35%. Nebraska is yet to adopt a tax deterrent for vaping products, and neither have Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota.

Nationally, about 14% of teens have daily vaping habits. Their friends tell them it’s safe to vape and so do companies selling the products. Compared to smoking, vaping is a lot less expensive, but arguably it’s just as addictive, and many states have not yet awakened to the idea of taxing e-cigs and similar products to deter teens from buying them.

What’s clear is that, lacking regulatory intervention, the only obstacle between a young person and a nasty vaping addiction are his parents. They must make it clear that vaping is not allowed in their home. Some teens won’t obey that mandate, but others will, and that makes their parents the best line of defense.

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