Letter: Vaping is a Danger to Youth as School Begins
Thanks to the tobacco industry targeting our youth, Massachusetts has experienced an increase in vaping (use of e-cigarettes or vape pens) by young people. In my job, I speak with people throughout our region about the dangers of tobacco and about how the tobacco industry targets kids. Usually they are alarmed and surprised to learn that vape pens are not just another harmless fad, but that they usually contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that is getting them hooked on these products. Nearly 24% of high-school-aged youth in Massachusetts report using e-cigarettes and almost 45% have used them at least once.
Why are so many youth vaping? E-cigarettes or vape pens come in over 8,000 different flavors--from Swedish Fish, to s'mores, to bubblegum-- to better attract young people. And it's working. Flavors are the leading reason that youth are using e-cigarettes, and the nicotine in these products leads to sustained use. We don't want youth to become the next generation of tobacco users, but Big Tobacco sure does, and flavored e-cigarettes and vape pens are making it possible.
More high school youth in Massachusetts are now using e-cigarettes than all other tobacco products combined, AND they are using them nine times more often than adults. The tobacco industry has made these products sweet, cheap, and easy to get because they know that people who start using nicotine products in adolescence have a harder time quitting than people who start as adults. As parents and concerned adults, let's work together to prevent youth from becoming the next generation of customers for Big Tobacco.
At the start of this school year, you can make a difference. Talk with your teenagers about vaping and learn about their school’s policy on it. Make sure they know that vaping is harmful and that nicotine is addictive and affects their brain development negatively. Effects of youth exposure to nicotine include increased risk for depression, mood disorders, or future drug addiction.
For more information, visit GetOutraged.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to find out how you can support local action to stop Big Tobacco from sweet talking our kids.
Program Manager, Southeast Tobacco-Free Community Partnership
Seven Hills Behavioral Health