In 2020, Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s largest and longest running drug-use prevention campaign, turns 35. Red Ribbon Week has informed millions of kids and parents about the danger of drugs and alcohol, influencing positive choices and behaviors. However, one “drug” that may not receive as much attention lately is nicotine. which is highly addictive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which measures a variety of risky behaviors, including tobacco use. The survey found that in California, more than 42% of high school students reported having tried e-cigarettes and more than 18% reported using currently. More than seven percent reported currently using smokeless tobacco.
The common thread among these products is flavored nicotine which the tobacco industry uses to spark curiosity and mask the harsh taste of tobacco. If sweet fruity flavors seem harmless, the high dose of nicotine teens get when they use, isn’t.
Rural communities have long been targeted by the tobacco industry. For decades, the tobacco industry has taken advantage of often weaker tobacco retail laws in rural areas and push misleading advertising, marketing and promotions that tie tobacco use to values such as strength, independence and resilience, while using images of cowboys, hunters and racecars to make smoking seem like it’s a part of life. In recent years, they have added new products like e-cigarettes, but the intent is the same. For example, Northern Humboldt Union High School District was part of the California Healthy Kids Survey that also