The tobacco industry shows clear patterns of designing flavored tobacco products to target youth with more than 20 appealing flavors such as cherry, unicorn puke, chocolate and popcorn.
They are packaged to look like other youth-oriented products like candy, lip balm or mints. Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in Wisconsin, and every year 2,600 Wisconsin kids become daily smokers, starting a lifelong addiction.
In addition to being highly addictive, nicotine can also harm teens’ developing brains. Even though there is no such thing as a safe tobacco product, more than one in five kids in the U.S currently uses tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The term “electronic cigarettes” covers a wide variety of products now on the market, from those that look like cigarettes or pens to somewhat larger products like “personal vaporizers” and “tank systems.”
Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes most often use a battery powered coil to turn a liquid solution into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.
One e-cigarette device, JUUL, is attracting a high number of youth users because it looks like a USB flash drive – making it easy to conceal from parents and teachers. In Wisconsin, 87 percent of high school students say they wouldn’t try e-cigarettes if they didn’t come in fruit and candy flavors.
Currently, 13.3 percent of Wisconsin high school students use e-cigarettes compared to just 8.1 percent who use cigarettes.
“We’ve made great progress in addressing youth smoking in Wisconsin,” said Elizabeth Abler, RN, Sheboygan County Public Health Nurse. “However, if we want our kids to live long, healthy, lives, we need to apply that same commitment to keeping them off all tobacco products.”
As part of the National Kick Butts Day this March, students throughout the Lakeshore are cleaning beaches, parks, parking lots and roadsides of tobacco waste. To help us build awareness and encourage youth to choose tobaccofree living, consider joining your local tobacco prevention coalition, re:TH!NK and the Partnership for Tobacco-Free Wisconsin at https://www.tobacco freewisconsin.org.
Tobacco users can receive free quitting help by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW. Quitting isn’t easy, but it can be done. Any day can be your Kick Butts Day!
For more details, please visit the re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network’s website at https: //sites.google.com/site/rethink lakeshoretobacco.
-Cath Tease is the coalition coordinator for re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network.