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Vaping should be addressed before it becomes a crisis

Around the nation, many states and municipalities are addressing the issue of vaping, particularly now in the wake of myriad stories of the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes apparently causing sickness and even death. CNN reported just yesterday that a sixth person in the United States died from lung disease related to vaping.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and various state health departments have been investigating these many cases but to date, there is no clear connection between those who have become ill or died. No solid evidence has linked those affected to a single vaping product.

Meanwhile just this month, North Dakota joined 25 other states that have reported more than 200 potential cases of severe respiratory illness from e-cigarettes among teenagers and adults. In early September, North Dakota Department of Health announced the first report of severe respiratory illness associated with a history of vaping. Reported symptoms include cough, fatigue, dizziness, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, chest pain, and worsening difficulty breathing, sometimes requiring intensive care.

It seems unlikely that this will be the last such case in the state.

The situation nationally has become enough of an issue to prompt the Trump administration to crack down Wednesday with a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes popular with teens.

Already, vaping in public places is banned in many places, either specifically or as part of anti-smoking regulations, such as exist in North Dakota.

Other places have gone a step further. San Francisco has banned the sale of vaping products effective early next year, at least two additional California cities are moving forward with similar laws and it’s a common discussion in numerous other municipalities. Many states and cities have set restrictions based on age.

Not one of these potential strategies to address vaping is a cure-all. Banning the sale of vaping products isn’t going to keep them out of the hands of users, even young users. Teens have found ways to acquire cigarettes (and worse) despite regulations. President Trump’s focus on flavored vaping products could have some impact on youth but it seems unlikely to stem the tide of users.

Part of the challenge is that it is unclear what exactly is causing the vaping related health effects. Perhaps a temporary federal moratorium on the sale of vaping products would enable health officials to investigate producers and products to determine the root of the danger and address it.

In the meantime, North Dakota should get ahead of the curve and develop a comprehensive strategy to address the dangers of vaping.

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