We all know tobacco is bad. It’s deadly. It causes cancer. It’s incredibly addictive. Tobacco use is still the leading cause of death in the United States.
What I didn’t know, and what other parents may not realize is that a whole new world of tobacco products is being designed for and marketed to kids. There has been an “explosive rise” in the use of flavored tobacco among adolescents. Flavored tobacco is everywhere and it’s a problem we have to confront right now.
Liquid tobacco is flavored like gummy bears, cotton candy, cherry, lemonade, or mint for use in e-cigarettes, more commonly known as vapes. The primary market for these fruity, flavorful vaping liquids and colorful, stylish vaping pens: kids and young adults. 81% of young people ages 12-17 who have ever tried any sort of tobacco started with flavored products. As tobacco use in adults declines, the tobacco industry has directed its attention to young people to fill the consumer void. Flavored tobacco is intended to hook kids young and create lifelong users. And it’s well on the way to achieving this goal.
Know what’s especially troubling? Vapes are created to look like highlighters, thumb drives, smartphone cases, smartwatches, etc. Vapes that look like school supplies? Come on. This industry preys on children and it’s frankly disgusting.
It makes me mad. That is probably clear. But with all the pressures on kids these days, and the mental health issues they’re dealing with from living through a pandemic, being exposed to constant scrutiny on social media, having to do school shooting safety drills… can we just not market flavored tobacco at kids too? It’s wrong and it’s insidious.
You might not know about kids and vaping, but I guarantee that your 9, 10… 16 year old child does. Vapes are everywhere. Even in school bathrooms. Especially in school bathrooms. Don’t believe me? Ask your kids.
Vermont Moms has the unique opportunity to work with the Flavors Hook Kids Vermont campaign to promote a bill currently in the legislature that impacts all Vermonters, particularly our kids, young people, and other vulnerable populations.
The Flavors Hook Kids Campaign, designed to stop the sale of flavored tobacco products in Vermont through Bill S.18, passed the VT Senate in 2023 and is currently in the VT House of Representatives waiting to be voted on by the Committee on Human Services. It will then be brought to the House for a final vote.
We have got to make sure it passes.
This is not a bill about party lines or Democrats versus Republicans. This is not remote or esoteric legislation that doesn’t really impact our day-to-day lives. This Bill is urgent. We must work together to keep our kids safe.
Think vapes don’t impact you? Think again.
I asked my Facebook friends what their kids had to say about vapes. I promised I would keep all responses completely anonymous. I was curious about what the people around me are experiencing.
One mom reported that her 15-year-old daughter knows what vaping is, and “she says lots of kids do it, that she can tell when they have done it bc the smell is often super sweet in a chemical way. There are bathrooms at the high school that are known to be vaping locations and they apparently smell like that a lot. She knows it is dangerous, thinks it is gross, and is grossed out by the smell.”
(Reading this made me suddenly acutely aware of the origin of the sweet, chemical smell I’ve also noticed at times.)
She went on to share that, both (her) girls “became aware of vaping in middle school. But it seemed like there were (only) a few kids vaping then and now (in high school) it sounds like it is pretty prevalent. So is smoking pot.”
A mom of 7th and 4th graders stated, “(my daughter) thinks one girl in her grade vapes but hasn’t seen her do it. She and her friends don’t vape or talk about doing it. She thinks it’s gross and knows it’s dangerous.” Her son has never seen anyone vape at school and knows vaping is dangerous “like cigarettes.”
A mom of 8th and 9th grade daughters said, “They started seeing (vaping) in middle school. Kids vaping in the bathrooms. The one in high school says she has seen it even more and will sometimes not use the bathroom because they know they will encounter (other students vaping.)”
A high school freshman stated, “Some older girls offered me a THC (*psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) vape in the bathroom.”
One mom reported that “in (her) kids’ school, a 5th-grade girl was caught giving a vape to a 2nd grader in the bathroom. Apparently, the (older) girl’s mom told the school she allows her 5th-grade daughter to vape at home. (Her) son is in 5th grade and had no idea any of this had even happened.”
I support Bill S.18 because more and more young people are using e-cigarettes (vapes) with flavored tobacco products. Using tobacco as a young person makes it easier to get addicted and harder to quit.
We need to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in Vermont to show kids how incredibly dangerous flavored tobacco products are and to be very clear that there is no safe or acceptable level of use.
We know the following problems are directly related to tobacco use:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Gum disease
- Eye disease
But did you know that tobacco use in kids causes additional serious problems? Not only can young people experience the problems listed above, they also can face:
- Harm to the developing brain
- Depression and anxiety
- Lung damage
- Cardiovascular damage
These are all serious concerns and, quite honestly, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Flavored tobacco is incredibly dangerous for kids.
The opposition I have seen to Bill S.18 revolves around the fact that it is currently illegal for people under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products in Vermont, yet young people seem to still be able to get ahold of flavored tobacco products. People opposing S.18 don’t see the reason to outlaw the sale of flavored tobacco when it is already illegal for young people to buy any tobacco.
I understand that argument but given that flavored tobacco products are marketed to kids, I think it is essential that we, as a state, take a clear stance and prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco in our state. Flavored tobacco is not welcome in our kids’ lives.
Many states are taking important steps to show that flavored tobacco products have no placethere. Massachusetts and California currently prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes (vapes.) Maryland and Utah have both restricted the sale of some flavored tobacco products. Many towns and cities have enacted bans as well.
If you’d like to stop the sale of flavored tobacco in Vermont, there’s a whole lot you can do:
- Send a message to the members of the Committee for Human Services which is currently reviewing this Bill.
- Write your legislators and tell them that you support the ban to sell flavored tobacco products in Vermont.
- Share your feelings with your neighbors on Front Porch Forum. (Sample text: I am concerned about the impact flavored tobacco products are having on our kids. We need to work together to support Bill S.18. Please write your legislators https://vtdigger.org/2023/02/09/how-to-contact-your-legislators/ with your feedback.
- Make sure your kids and the kids around you know how incredibly dangerous vaping is.
Vermont Moms is excited to be a part of this campaign keeping Vermont safe for our kids. Please stay tuned for more information about our collaboration with Flavors Hook Kids VT.
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