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More is needed to keep tobacco away from teens

It has been suggested by some that the current scare over e-cigarettes is overblown. Though hundreds of Americans have been hospitalized with respiratory ailments linked to “vaping” and a few have died, calls to ban the products are not realistic, critics say.

But there is a valid, different concern about e-cigarettes. It is that many juveniles who would never consider using tobacco products have taken up vaping because they believe — wrongly — that the practice carries with it no health risks.

Vaping almost certainly is safer than consuming tobacco by other methods, though more research needs to be done on the topic. But vaping is ingesting nicotine, and that can get users addicted to the substance. Any addiction is a matter for concern.

When a product is causing addiction among children, it demands thought by policymakers.

Studies indicate manufacturers of e-cigarettes and the nicotine-laden liquids they use have been very successful in attracting children. More than 20 percent of high school students using vaping products, some researchers say. An astounding 4.9 percent of middle-school youngters use e-cigarettes.

How is that possible? Don’t we have laws intended to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors? Yes, we do, though they vary by state. The vast majority of states limit purchases of vaping products to those 18 or, in some cases, 21 years of age.

Clearly, those statutes are not being enforced very well.

Local and state law enforcement agencies sometimes use “sting” operations to find and arrest retailers who sell tobacco and alcohol to minors. Perhaps those efforts should be expanded to cover e-cigarette devices and the liquid cartridges used with them.Whether new limits are needed on all sales of e-cigarette products is one question that needs to be addressed.

But keeping the products out of the hands of children is a no-brainer. More needs to be done in that regard.

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