Want to know why it’s so important to stop kids from vaping?

Because vaping is injurious in a number of ways — especially for adolescents.

» E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which we know — have known for decades — is dangerous and addictive.

One such product, called a JUUL, has the nicotine potency of 20 cigarettes. And that’s according to its maker’s own data.

» Addiction damages brain development. Anything that inhibits that growth at a young age has compounding effects, preventing the brain from achieving its natural potential.

» E-cigarettes can contain hazardous heavy metals, such as lead. That’s according to the U.S. surgeon general. While some communities are desperate to remove lead from their drinking water, vapers are deliberately ingesting it.

» E-cigarettes contain flavoring to make them more appealing, and at least one of those flavorings, diacetyl, has been linked to serious lung disease.

» They also introduce particulates into the lungs, another health risk, according to the surgeon general.

Those are just a few of the vaping dangers we know about. But there might be many more we don’t know about.

The vaping craze has been around only since 2003; it’s not possible yet to assess long-term health damage. But medical experts fear such damage will be substantial.

That’s due not only to the direct effects of nicotine and other harmful chemicals, but also to a couple of secondary factors.

One is those flavorings we mentioned, which help spread the vaping culture. E-cigs are made more palatable to young vapers by a variety of sweet, fruity or spicy tastes. That makes them seem attractive, like candy for grownups, and masks the reality of their dangers.

All this makes it easier for young people to start the habit.

In fact, it encourages them to start the habit — and end with the addiction.

A second factor is the ease with which vaping can be camouflaged. Local schools are dealing with that now.

In 2015, the JUUL appeared on the scene. It looks like a standard USB drive — which means students can carry it in full view, and teachers and staff don’t know they’re violating policy by having a nicotine device on school grounds.

Schools have a clear interest in enforcing such policies. Preventing addiction is a broad humanitarian goal that crosses boundaries, but schools are specifically tasked with the job of educating our young people. Since addiction interferes with that goal, of course schools want to discourage it.

The General Assembly agrees. This year it passed legislation to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. The new limit goes into effect July 1.

But it’s not enough to rely on enforcement of the law — especially when e-cigs can be disguised as ubiquitous thumb drives.

And so the Albemarle County school division, the Charlottesville City Schools, the University of Virginia and the Region Ten Community Services Board have combined to discourage vaping through better information about that harmful practice.

Education can be effective in changing social behavior, if the message is compelling enough. Consider this editorial as part of that education effort.


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