C-Force: Cigarettes and Their Substitutes Court a New Generation
I think we all could agree that preventing an addictive habit before it begins is the best course of action you can take. The problem is, when it comes to young people, there is so much working against us when we try to provide such advice. Let's look at smoking as an example. As I reported last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day about 1,600 young people in this country will try their first cigarette.
According to a 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, "3.7% of middle or high school students -- about 1 million in all -- (have) smoked 'combustible tobacco' products such as cigars or cigarettes," USA Today's Ken Alltucker reports. And that was not even their most popular option. The survey data showed vaping is overwhelmingly the most popular choice of school-age kids. "In all, nearly 3.1 million students in middle and high school vaped or used other tobacco products" during the Jan. 18-May 31 study period. Among teen vapers, "85% said they used flavored vapes and more than half used disposable e-cigarettes."
"It isn't a coincidence that certain subpopulations are using very specific tobacco products at far higher numbers," says Matthew L. Myers, president of nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's directly correlated to where the tobacco industry has targeted its advertising."
"Having 3 million kids use these products is truly alarming," adds Erika Sward, the American Lung Association's assistant vice president of national advocacy.
"Flavored products have driven this epidemic from the beginning," Dennis Henigan, vice president for legal and regulatory affairs of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tells USA Today.
"Flavored e-cigarettes have addicted a new generation of Americans to nicotine," writes Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, in a recent STAT News opinion piece.
"In the past decade, the use of flavored e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems by youth and young adults, as well as by others who did not previously use tobacco products, has grown substantially, hitting a peak among high schoolers in 2019," says Foti. "Although use of these products dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic, their popularity is once again starting to rise."
While in 2020 the Food and Drug Administration issued a ban on flavored cartridges used in nicotine-delivering vaping devices, it appears the industry has worked around that mandate by turning to selling nicotine made in a lab rather than from tobacco, reports USA Today. Earlier this year, the FDA warned synthetic nicotine manufacturers and retailers about unlawful sales and marketing of these products.
"Until we deal with the root cause -- wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors -- we're going to continue in this cycle," of youth vaping, warns Sward.
"Prohibiting flavored (electronic nicotine delivery systems) products would be a powerful strategy to decrease the appeal to youth and young adults," writes Foti, and decreasing the appeal of these products "must be an urgent public health priority."