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More needs to be done to keep e-cigs out of hands of children

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 are using vaping products, some researchers say. An astounding 4.9 percent of middle-school youngsters use e-cigarettes.

The vast majority of states limit purchases of vaping products to those 18 years of age, and the Pennsylvania Senate recently approved a bill, 43-6, that would raise the age limit to 21. That bill will be considered by the House and, if passed there, go to Gov. Wolf for his signature.

Raising the age limit is a positive step toward keeping these products out of the hands of children, but enforcement of statutes is another matter.

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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