We’ve long been aware of the dangers of smoking — over 11,000 Hoosiers die each year — but vaping’s health consequences are becoming more apparent: four Indiana deaths from vaping have been among the 54 nationwide, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Dec. 17, the CDC reported 2,506 hospitalized cases of lung injury tied to vaping, and those incidents have presented in all 50 states as well as D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Particularly concerning is the high rate of vaping among Hoosier high-schoolers — one-fifth say they have vaped, something many don’t see as harmful. Use of e-cigarettes among high-school students nationwide increased to 20.8% in 2018 from 1.5% in 2011.
That rise is reflected in the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey, which showed six million students in middle school and high school used tobacco products in 2019. E-cigarettes or vaping were the top method of consumption due to ease of purchase, but no more.
Congress passed and President Trump signed into law a bill that prohibits the sale of tobacco products — including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges — to anyone under the age of 21.
Indiana lawmakers, though, have historically shown little interest in taking action to reduce tobacco consumption rates among Hoosiers. Last year, of nine smoking-related bills introduced in the Legislature — including one to raise the minimum purchase age to 21 — only one bill regulating e-container labeling passed. Efforts to tax e-liquids and raise the tax on cigarettes died in committee.
This year could be different. State lawmakers and Gov. Holcomb seemed poised ahead of the 2020 session to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products, but Congress acted first.
Members of the General Assembly should follow suit by passing a state law that mirrors the federal one. They also should enact measures regulating vaping in workplaces and public spaces the same as smoking, and vaping products should be similarly taxed.
Such actions won’t end tobacco consumption, but they will deter it — and that’s a step toward better health.