Commentary: We must stop the the youth tobacco epidemic fueled by candy-flavored products – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Commentary: We must stop the the youth tobacco epidemic fueled by candy-flavored products – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Easy access to kid-friendly flavored tobacco is driving today’s youth tobacco and vaping epidemic. Fruit, mint and candy flavors mask the harsh taste of tobacco, making these products highly alluring to kids.

In recent years, e-cigarette use has skyrocketed among middle school and high school students. But e-cigarettes aren’t the only tobacco products that kids are using in high numbers: Menthol cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookahs have all become more popular among kids because they, too, come in sweet flavors. Today, over 30 percent of high school students report using tobacco, putting these teens at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addiction and health problems, including cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

Local policies that protect kids are critical to preventing youth nicotine addiction and tobacco-related death and disease. The evidence is clear: Across all tobacco products, flavors are overwhelmingly used by youth as starter products. Eighty-one percent of kids who have ever used tobacco started with a flavor. Ninety-seven percent of kids who regularly smoke e-cigarettes (vapes) use flavors.

Big Tobacco shamelessly uses this knowledge to entice kids into nicotine addiction by marketing their products in kid-friendly flavors. In fact, flavored tobacco products have long been a tool used by the industry to lure new and young customers. Today’s tobacco products come in over 15,000 flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, mint, menthol and mango. With their colorful packaging and sweet, candy flavors, these products are often hard to distinguish from candy displays in local
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