New rules needed for e-cigarettes

Use of tobacco in all forms can be hazardous to one’s health. That is a fact, not open to dispute.

Yet cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco are legal for sale in all 50 states, with some restrictions. That is a puzzle to many who wonder why federal laws intended to safeguard Americans’ health do not seem to pertain to tobacco.

They do, however. Any tobacco manufacturer adding dangerous substances to the already hazardous product — say, opioids — would feel the full wrath of the federal government.

The same policy needs to be adopted toward e-cigarettes and the cartridges they use to carry nicotine to users.

For months, researchers have been trying to get to the bottom of a nationwide outbreak of pulmonary illness among users of e-cigarettes. Fluid cartridges not produced by major manufacturers have been a focus.

One focus was black-market e-cigarette cartridges containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. But this week, U.S. health officials revealed they have a “very strong culprit” under investigation. It is a compound called vitamin E acetate, found in liquid used by many of the “vapers” who got sick.

The substance has been used as a thickener in e-cigarette fluids — especially those on the black market.

Millions of people take vitamin E, of course. It is not dangerous when consumed in pill form or when used on the skin. Inhaling droplets of it can be harmful, however.

Knowing precisely what has sickened more than 2,000 users of e-cigarettes — and killed at least 40 of them — is imperative, of course.

But research to date, pointing to an additive not used by the major producer of vaping products, Juul Labs, indicates a better system of regulating the industry is needed.

Many adult vapers are people using e-cigarettes as aids to stop smoking tobacco. They are attempting to do something good for themselves. Being hospitalized or killed by adulterated products is a side-effect against which they deserve protection.


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