Grand Futures: Recent tobacco legislation
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Ease of access and the misconception among teens that vaping is less harmful are two of the leading reasons for such a significant increase in the number of youth using vaping products in the U.S.
One of the most common ways youth obtain nicotine products, especially vaping devices, is from their older peers. But that ease of access all changed recently, thanks to a new law passed last month.
In mid-December, the federal government passed a law that raises the purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. Before last month, 19 states had already passed similar laws raising the purchasing age to 21. The new federal law is nationwide and effective immediately.
In a report released by the U.S. surgeon general, since 2018 there has been an 80% increase in vaping among high schoolers and a 50% increase among middle schoolers. It is because of the alarmingly high number of underage tobacco users that public health professionals and government officials are taking a second look at the country’s policies and making changes.
By increasing the purchasing age, access for school-aged youth is expected to significantly drop. Age restrictions have been proven to limit youth access, which, in turn, decrease use among teens.
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Another policy that has the possibility of being passed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a ban on flavored nicotine products, with an exception made for menthol flavors. There are currently thousands of flavors on the market — sweet, sour, fruity — you name it. The problem is that these sugary flavors appeal to teens and young adults who might otherwise not have had any interest in vaping.
The bright colors and appealing candy or fruit flavors portrayed in e-cigarette advertisements attract young users and falsely convey a less harmful message in the minds of consumers. Flavors like gummy bear, Skittles and creme brule are much more appealing than tobacco.
Additionally, messages like “smoke free” and “love your lungs” insinuate that vaping products aren’t as harmful to your body as traditional cigarettes or other tobacco products. According to the tobacco and vaping industry, these subliminal messages are intended to make vaping more appealing and accessible for adults, but in reality, they are attracting far more young users than any other demographic.
Raising the purchasing age is a great start, but in order to protect our youth and stop a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine — something we’d almost eradicated in this country — it is important that a nationwide flavor ban be passed as well.
Lindsey Simbeye is the executive director of Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
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