The Rise of E-Cigarette Usage in Youth
Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., and is a serious health issue nationwide. 95% of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21, and the tobacco industry continues to target youth and young adults as new consumers. E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular, and come in many different shapes and sizes that are intentionally marketed to youth, such as juuling, vaping, or e-hookahs.
One of the newest products, a JUUL, is shaped like a flash drive. With youth in mind, its nicotine filled pods are filled with flavors such as cool cucumber, fruit medley or mango. A JUUL delivers a high dose of nicotine, which is highly addictive and can effect brain development. A single pod contains as much as nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. Many parents (and even some youth) are not aware that these items contain nicotine, or that nicotine is addictive.
According to research conducted by Tobacco Free Florida, 17.8% of Alachua County youth ages 11-17 currently use tobacco products (including e-cigarettes). 31.5% of Alachua County youth have tried a tobacco product (including e-cigarettes), and 10 of our county’s public K-12 schools have at least one e-cigarette retailer within a 5-minute walk of their campuses. Three retailers are located within 1,000 feet of Gainesville High School, and two close to Sidney Lanier Center. Retailers even exist close to many elementary schools, including Stephen Foster, Metcalfe and Meadowbrook.
A Local Solution
Tobacco Free Alachua is working with the Alachua County Commissioners on initiatives that aim to curb tobacco use among youth in our community:
- Create “safe zones” – a 1,000 feet buffer around our public schools where tobacco cannot be sold. 74% of JUUL users say they obtained them from a physical retail location. Schools with more tobacco retailers within walking distance have more smokers.
- Raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21 years old. This has already been adopted by six states and over 310 localities.
- Close the e-cigarette loophole that allows anyone to sell these products without oversight or accountability. There is currently no licensing required to sell e-cigarettes. The county is considering creating a local tobacco retail license in order to provide more oversight about where these products are sold.
At the National level, PTA supports legislation, regulation and other local measures to address the manufacturing, advertising and marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, particularly on or near school grounds. Alachua County Council of PTA’s supports the ordinances to curb youth tobacco use at the local level. By encouraging a tobacco-free environment, we are furthering our mission to support the health and wellbeing of our children and to ensure a quality learning experience.
For more information, visit:
Tobacco Free Florida: http://tobaccofreeflorida.com/
Tobacco Free Alachua: http://tobaccofreealachua.org/