The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
As both a school district superintendent and a parent, I am worried about the adverse health effects of tobacco and vaping on our community’s teens. The dramatic spike in vaping among young people is particularly alarming, although perhaps not surprising for a number of reasons.
First, we must realize that, because tobacco and vaping materials are legally available to anyone who is 18 years old, the path for these materials getting into the hands of even younger students can be a short one when older students “share” with their friends. Second, our children are drawn to such vaping flavors as sour green apple, watermelon, and cotton candy — flavors obviously targeted at them.
And, our kids are taken in by the glamorous ad campaigns that cast the illusion that vaping is a “healthy alternative” to traditional tobacco.
The negative effects of tobacco use are well-settled, and the alarming evidence regarding e-cigarettes is mounting. They contain toxic chemicals that can cause serious and irreversible damage to lung and heart functions, and recent studies and news reports have linked the use of e-cigarettes to collapsed lungs, pneumonia, seizures and deaths. That’s why the CDC came out against e-cigarettes just last week and why the Trump administration has called for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
A teenager’s brain is particularly susceptible to nicotine and tobacco addiction, which is borne out by the fact that 95% of current smokers started (and became addicted) before the age of 21. In Arizona, 7.1% of high school students smoke. That’s 26,500 kids. 5,500 of those kids become regular smokers each year. Given these current trends, 115,000 of the kids alive in Arizona today will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.
Unless we do something.
Let’s raise the legal purchase age to 21 for tobacco and vaping. Of Pima County residents, 64% already support doing so. By doing that single “something,” we will help prevent nicotine addiction in so many young people, saving a generation and their families from tragedy.