By Dena K. Hubbard MD, FAAP
The Kansas AAP chapter was represented at the fourth annual Cancer Policy Forum on October 3rd at the Kansas Health Institute. The event was led by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Kansas and focused on tobacco and vaping prevention efforts. KAAP is actively engaged and collaborating with key stakeholders in preparation of proposed Tobacco 21 legislation next session which will includes the following: raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years, increasing the retail license fee which will also fund enforcement, and includes no punishment for youth who purchase or are in possession of tobacco products.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, 61, 000 kids currently under the age of 18 in Kansas will ultimately die prematurely from smoking at current rates. The use of electronic smoking devices by youth increased 78% nationally in 2018 causing federal officials to deem the problem an epidemic. More than five million middle- and high-school students now use e-cigarettes in the US.
Tobacco use and tobacco smoke exposure are among the most important health threats to children, adolescents and adults. Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended. Electronic smoking devices are the Trojan horse for this generation as it was initially believed and advertised to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, but this was a dangerous misconception. E-cigarettes are highly-addictive and come in flavors that are appealing to children and are luring them in to an addictive behavior. Vaping companies have targeted teens with these products in design (no smell so not as easily detected by parents and teachers), marketing (brightly colored packaging), taste (fruit and candy flavors), and in cost effectiveness (decreased cost compared to the equivalent in cigarettes). The developing brains of children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the development of tobacco and nicotine dependence. One pod eJuice has as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. The tobacco industry is currently exploiting the weaker regulation on noncigarette tobacco products in marketing, advertising, sales, and use in areas currently prohibited for traditional cigarettes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaping has been linked to 2,172 cases of lung injury and 42 deaths as of November 14. Cases have been reported in every state except Alaska. Now is the time to look to policy to protect an entire generation of Kansas Children from a lifetime of tobacco addiction.
At the state level, seven states have e-cigarette bans in some form. Michigan and New York banned flavored e-cigarettes, however the New York ban was just blocked by a fresh wave of e-cigarette outrage. Massachusetts followed but broadened their ban to include the sale of all vape products. Several other states are considering or enacting similar regulations. Kansas will likely see legislation on flavor bans, but as separate legislation from Tobacco 21.
At the federal level, the White House promised action to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes two months ago but has yet to materialize. There are reports that the Administration is considering an exemption for menthol e-cigarettes and vape shops from the policy. Flavoring agents with local anesthetic properties such as menthol decrease the natural sensation of harshness of the tobacco smoke and make it easier to inhale the smoke deeply.
Kansas Kids Need Your Help
The AAP is joining other leading health groups to share the urgent call to action: The market must be cleared of all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol without any exemptions. See this short video advertisement. Please contact the White House and share this message by taking action online or by calling 202-456-1111. The AAP federal advocacy website has additional background information. Thank you for your advocacy on this important child health issue.
Kansas Advocacy Day
Please join us January 30, 2020 in Topeka for KAAP Advocacy Day beginning at 9 AM. At this time, the advocacy issue will be related to tobacco and vaping prevention legislation.