Our View: Stop Tobacco Companies From Targeting Young People

Electronic cigarettes have been pushed into the market as a safer alternative to smoking – a solution that would help people break out of this deadly habit.

Instead, it’s the opposite, as vaping products with names like “Blue Razz” and “Frozen Lime Drop” attract teens who might never have been able to digest the taste of tobacco and leave addicted to nicotine.

The proliferation of sweet and fruity tobacco products has been a real-life experience, with children making up most of the subjects. This must end before reversing years of progress against the terrible consequences of tobacco.

A bill before the Legislature would make Maine the third state to ban all flavored electronic cigarettes, chewing tobacco and cigars, joining Massachusetts and California. The Trump administration issued a partial ban early last year and the House of Representatives passed a total ban this year; the Senate has not yet addressed the matter.

The bill, LD 1550, passed the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee along with a party line vote, with Democrats in favor, although the bill has Republican sponsors. The policy was also included in the Mills government’s supplementary budget.

Republicans on the committee released a minority report amendment that would ban only flavored e-cigarettes – not chewing tobacco and flavored cigars, nor menthol cigarettes.

But that’s the definition of a half measure. The entire legislature should adopt LD 1550 in its original form and fund it in the budget – this is the most effective way to prevent the state from rolling back on smoking cessation.

Flavored electronic cigarettes are the main objective of the legislation. Vaping devices were heralded as a way for smokers to satisfy nicotine cravings without inhaling all of the carcinogens in tobacco, but they were picked up by kids attracted to the flavors.

It is not an accident. The devices and their tasty products are clearly marketed to entice the younger generation to give it a try. Once they do, the nicotine does the rest, rewarding each push of the button with a bang to the pleasure center of the teenager’s brain.

An alarming part of high school and high school students are now vaping. We have heard of school officials in and out of Maine that a growing number of students are struggling to walk through even one class without vaping. The students themselves said once they’re addicted that’s all they can think of.

And once a teenager becomes addicted to e-cigarettes, it becomes more likely that he will switch to the old one later, causing all the health issues that come with it.

Menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, and chewing tobacco don’t get the same kind of attention, but the same factors are at play. These products are also being marketed to children, in the hope that they will become the next generation of smokers.

In the case of menthol cigarettes, they are marketed almost exclusively to African Americans youth and young adults.

There is a reason to target young people. Tobacco companies know that if someone is going to become a lifelong customer, they almost always start using their products. in adolescence or adulthood.

That’s why everything – the flavors, the ads, the social media presence – is aimed at appealing to teens and young adults.

And that’s why Maine should ban flavors – all flavors. There is no reason to allow tobacco companies to create the next generation of smokers.

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About Margaret Shaw

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