Stop tobacco industry from addicting youth
To the editor:
Smoking is still the #1 cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing over 400,000 people each year. With flavored tobacco products now attracting a new generation of smokers and nicotine users, continued efforts need to be made to educate and prevent youth from using these products.
You might have noticed the variety of inexpensive, flavored nicotine products such as single packaged cigars, e-cigarettes, e-hookah and blunt wraps available at your local retailers and how they are often placed on shelves that are at eye level for kids.
Research shows that youth are particularly attracted to nicotine delivery products that are sold in candy and fruit flavors. Currently, these products are widely available at corner stores and other retailers that youth frequent. E-cigarettes and e-hookah are often displayed at the checkout counter and other highly visible locations within the store right next to candy.
These products might look fun or harmless, but consumers need to be aware that nicotine in any form is addictive. Although many of these products are regulated locally, they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is no way of knowing the amount of nicotine or other chemicals these products contain.
When it comes to youth, this is particularly important because nicotine is highly addictive and can produce chemical and structural changes in the adolescent brain that can lead to future addictions. Ninety percent of smokers begin before the age of 18.
These products are cheap, sweet and can be easy to obtain. Limiting the places where young people see flavored tobacco products will have a major impact on the health of future generations.
We encourage local boards of health, working in unison with parents, educators, and all members of the community, to be mindful of what is being sold at local stores, to continue promoting policy changes that protect youth and to talk to teens and children about the risks of these nicotine products.
James J. Wilusz, Lee
Elizabeth Rolison, Pittsfield James J. Wilusz is executive director, Tri-Town Health Department/ Tobacco Awareness Program. Elizabeth Rolison is program manager, Berkshire Tobacco Free Community Partnership at Berkshire Area Health Education Center.