Vaping is clearly a health hazard, although it’s still hazy as to exactly why so many people who regularly use vaping devices have been diagnosed with serious lung diseases (at least 500 cases just the past few months and at least 13 deaths overall) across America.

Action is needed now to figure out the cause of this growing, deadly problem — and then fix it.

While Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision on Friday to impose an emergency ban on flavored vaping products is far from a panacea, it is a solid step in reducing risk for Washingtonians and, perhaps, will help identify the cause of the mysterious, sometimes fatal lung illness. Health concerns in Washington can be compared to other states without the flavor ban.

The immediate impact should be to help slow the rapid acceleration of vaping by teens and tweens.

Salt Lake City’s Deseret News reported vaping is “wildly popular” among those under 20 with a more than a 900% increase since the devices became available about a decade ago.

“It’s the latest craze,” Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a bio-behavioral scientist and Yale professor of psychiatry, said in June. “It’s also a serious health concern.”

Smoking tobacco cigarettes is down across all age groups, including youths, and it has been decreasing year after year. But the vape craze has spurred an increase of tobacco-based product use among young people, calculated as an increase of 38.3% in 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means that about 1.5 million more teens and tweens used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2017.

The candy and fruit flavored vape cartridges seem to be a major factor in this increase. The vaping industry and Big Tobacco, which is now heavily invested in vaping companies such as Juul, claim the flavored products aren’t aimed at getting kids hooked but to help smokers ween themselves off regular cigarettes. That seems, at best, disingenuous.

Inslee specifically justified his executive order on the grounds that government has a responsibility for public health and the public’s health is put at risk by flavored vaping products that are particular appealing to children.

“These kids get hooked,” Inslee said when he made the announcement, later adding, “Look, when you addict a 12-year-old kid to nicotine, you’re just wrong.”

Yes, very wrong.

With Inslee’s order, which is expected to be adopted by the state Board of Health on Oct. 9, Washington would become the fourth state imposing a ban. Michigan and New York have also banned flavored vaping products while Massachusetts has enacted a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products.

Again, Inslee’s ban as well as the other bans offer some room to get a handle on vape-connected lung diseases while also providing an opportunity to see if banning flavored vapes will significantly reduce the use by teens and younger.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart