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New Texas law raising smoking age aims to protect youth, teens from vaping

The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning parents about how vaping is different, and some schools are implementing new policies around vaping.

HOUSTON — A new Texas law set to take effect on September 1 raises the legal age for someone to purchase or possess nicotine products to 21 years old.

The law makes an exception for anyone 18 years or older who has a military ID card to purchase those products.

With the CDC calling teen and youth use of vapes and e-cigarettes an "epidemic," the Texas Department of State Health Services is warning parents about how vaping is different from other forms of smoking.

On Friday, DSHS announced it was investigating suspected cases of lung disease from people who report using vapes or e-cigarettes. The department established a section of its website to teach parents about the dangers of adolescent use of vapes.

The CDC notes that vape pods contain highly concentrated amounts of nicotine which can be extremely addictive, particularly to developing brains.

School districts across Texas are establishing new policies about student use of vapes or e-cigarettes on campus. Schools already prohibit tobacco and nicotine use on school grounds.

In Fort Bend ISD, possessing, using, selling, buying or giving paraphernalia related to electronic smoking or vaping of substances not identified as controlled substances, marijuana, THC or CBD (R2) can result in disciplinary action, even if the student commits the misconduct on school property, within 300 feet of a school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property.

On the law enforcement side, this violation is a Class C Misdemeanor and officers refer the matters to administration and confiscate the items as evidence, according to Angelique Myers with Fort Bend ISD.

Pulmonologist Pushan Jani, MD with UTHealth believes the recent cases of lung disease possibly related to vaping are a cause for concern. Jani is concerned that years from now there may be unanticipated health issues.

"It is not a good product for kids who will get the harmful effects of nicotine," said Dr. Jani.

Some of the harmful effects include increased blood pressure, heart rate, and lung damage.

WATCH: Raw interview with Dr. Pushan Jani

Dr. Jani said one vape pod contains the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. In addition to increased blood pressure and lung inflammation, Dr. Jani says adolescents who start vaping at a young age increase their chance of addiction.

”They are very vulnerable in developing those addiction potentials, especially to nicotine," said Dr. Jani. ”We don’t have the data to say that every vaping person is going to get a lung disease, but we know that if you do e-cigarettes, you are exposing yourself to something else besides air and that’s not good for your lungs.“

While many companies that make e-cigarettes have stopped making or selling flavored pods to people under age 18, kids are still buying knock-offs online.

Dr. Jani says some of the flavoring agents, not just the nicotine, are also causing lung inflammation.

Related coverage:

Texas health department investigating severe lung disease among youth who use e-cigs

First Texas case of lung disease linked to vaping found in teen

Vaping companies sue to delay US review of e-cigarettes

Vaping blamed for 'severe lung damage' in 8 Wisconsin teens

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