The attention today at the Statehouse in Indianapolis will be on Indiana's teachers as they rally for more education funding and higher pay.

It's an important item on the state's agenda.

But it's not the only one.

High on the list for lawmakers to consider is decreasing the smoking rate of Hoosiers and getting vaping products out of the hands of young people.

Proposals to accomplish those worthwhile goals have a strong support from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, with Indiana's legislature, nothing is as easy as it should be. Legislation aimed at these goals have failed before.

In the new session that begins in January, let's hope things will be different. The urgency of the matter has certainly become heightened in recent months as deaths and serious injuries from vaping products grabbed the nation's attention.

Indiana health officials recently reported a fourth state resident has died of severe lung injuries linked to vaping.

The Associated Press reported that the Indiana State Department of Health said the state has had 55 confirmed cases of such injuries and another 57 probable cases. It says more than 50 of the combined cases have been in the 18-29 age group and more than 20 in the 30-39 age group.

Nationwide, there have been more than 2,000 cases and at least 40 people have died.

The health department is gathering data on cases and collaborating with local and federal health officials and health care providers to determine potential causes of the injuries.

Among powerful political organizations pushing for action on tobacco use and vaping is the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. In its list of legislative priorities released Monday, the state Chamber renewed its call for raising the age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21. It also advocates raising the cigarette tax and implementing taxes on e-cigarette products.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar has been a strong voice on the subject and calls the group's efforts a "no-brainer."

Between 2012 and 2018, he said, vaping usage among Indiana high school students increased 387% and nearly as much among middle schoolers. Smoking causes Hoosier businesses more than $6 billion in annual productivity losses and increased health care costs.

“Families are suffering the tragic consequences of these addictions, and just last week we saw the state’s fourth vaping-related death," Brinegar said. "Voters have already shown strong support for these common sense moves. There is no room for delay or making excuses. The state must step up and address these issues; we can’t wait on or depend on the federal government to act."

Moving proposals such as these through the General Assembly in 2020 — a short session — will be challenging. Nonetheless, the health and well-being of Hoosiers demand an aggressive effort.
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