Time to take ac­tion in New Mex­ico to halt youth smok­ing and va­p­ing

The Taos News - - FAVOR Y CONTRA - The Al­bu­querque Jour­nal By Sen. Cisco McSor­ley New Mex­ico State Sen. Cisco McSor­ley is a Demo­crat from Al­bu­querque.

re­ported on Septem­ber

17 that the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued warn­ings to 22 New Mex­ico busi­nesses and fined one of them this past sum­mer for selling elec­tronic cig­a­rettes to mi­nors. It is, of course, il­le­gal to sell e-cig­a­rettes and to­bacco to peo­ple younger than 18. Since the per­pe­tra­tors in­clude some of the na­tion’s largest main­stream re­tail­ers and con­ve­nience stores, in­clud­ing Wal­mart, Wal­greens and

7-Eleven, it should il­lus­trate to pol­icy mak­ers and ci­ti­zens alike why tough, ur­gent ac­tion is needed at the state and lo­cal level.

Ear­lier, the fed­eral FDA Com­mis­sioner Scott Got­tlieb stated that e-cig­a­rette use, or “va­p­ing,” among teenagers na­tion­ally now has reached “an epi­demic pro­por­tion.” New Mex­ico’s youth are no ex­cep­tion.

He sub­se­quently an­nounced new, sweep­ing gov­ern­ment en­force­ment to halt sales to mi­nors, tar­get­ing both man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers. Com­mis­sioner Got­tlieb lis­tened to pub­lic health ad­vo­cates, par­ents and teach­ers and is to be com­mended for his bold de­ci­sion. But much more help is needed.

E-cig­a­rette de­vices heat liq­uid, fre­quently in­fused with nico­tine, into a va­por that can be in­haled. They are sold in over 7,000 sug­ary fla­vors tar­geted to kids, such as mango, cherry, straw­berry and cot­ton candy.

New high-tech, high-nico­tine va­p­ing prod­ucts, such as Juuls and Blu, are ad­dict­ing a whole new gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple, putting them at risk for even more dan­ger­ous smok­ing to­bacco use that would re­verse decades of progress. More than 30 per­cent of teens who use elec­tronic cig­a­rettes go on to smoke tra­di­tional to­bacco within six months of be­gin­ning use of elec­tronic ver­sions.

In ad­di­tion to the harm­ful ef­fects of nico­tine on brain devel­op­ment, e-cig­a­rettes pose other health risks for kids. While e-cig­a­rettes do not con­tain all of the harm­ful sub­stances of deadly com­bustible cig­a­rettes, they do pos­sess dan­ger­ous sub­stances, such as formalde­hyde, a known car­cino­gen, and other toxic chem­i­cals. Many of the fla­vor­ings have never been tested, and e-cig­a­rette mak­ers do not list their in­gre­di­ents.

There has been a 75 per­cent in­crease in e-cig­a­rette use among high school stu­dents in the U.S. in the past 12 months alone, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data from the Na­tional Youth To­bacco Sur­vey.

It is no ac­ci­dent. The com­pa­nies mar­ket their elec­tronic prod­ucts heav­ily to young peo­ple and to kids. The days of Joe Camel may be over, but they have been re­placed by slick ad cam­paigns us­ing so­cial me­dia to con­vey im­ages of glam­our and celebri­ties va­p­ing.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers are never truth­ful about their mar­ket­ing that tar­gets teenagers. Mil­lions of teenagers have seen these ads that have made e-cig­a­rettes ex­tremely pop­u­lar.

Smok­ing costs our state

$844 mil­lion in di­rect health care and Med­i­caid costs ev­ery year, and it re­sults in count­less deaths, dis­eases and can­cers. The over­all cost to our state is an as­tro­nom­i­cal $1.4 bil­lion. This is a tax on all of us. We can no longer af­ford to idly sit by as a younger gen­er­a­tion is tricked into nico­tine ad­dic­tion.

That is why in the com­ing meet­ing of the New Mex­ico Leg­is­la­ture, I will spon­sor sev­eral pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to keep kids safe.

We should in­crease the tax on cig­a­rettes and es­pe­cially e-cig­a­rettes by $1.50. The tax would in­crease from $1.66 to

$3.16 in New Mex­ico, gen­er­at­ing $90 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

The con­nec­tion be­tween the price of cig­a­rettes and peo­ple smok­ing is well-es­tab­lished. It would keep thou­sands of kids from ever tak­ing up smok­ing or us­ing e-cig­a­rettes, and save the state mil­lions of dol­lars in pub­lic health, in­sur­ance, lost wages and all the other as­so­ci­ated costs. We have seen this leg­is­la­tion be­fore, but now is the time to en­act it.

Clean air is a ba­sic hu­man right of every­one. The real health dan­gers of se­cond­hand smoke from tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes is well-known, but less dis­cussed is the dan­ger from be­ing in the prox­im­ity of va­p­ing sub­stances. Re­form is needed to pro­hibit e-cig­a­rette use in all pub­lic places in New Mex­ico.

With­out a change to the pol­icy that ig­nores the use of kid-friendly fla­vor­ings in va­por prod­ucts, the soar­ing growth in the use of dan­ger­ous e-cig­a­rettes by chil­dren will con­tinue. Our state must ban the fla­vored liq­uids used in elec­tronic cig­a­rettes once and for all. New Mex­ico, with its high rate of poverty and large pop­u­la­tion of at-risk chil­dren, is on the front line of the grow­ing threat to pub­lic health caused by e-cig­a­rettes.

Epi­demics de­mand strong ac­tion. If we care about the chil­dren of New Mex­ico as much as we say we do, then let’s put the brakes on va­p­ing now.

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