Chicago health commissioner: Big Tobacco is targeting our youth and we must stop them

BY DR. JULIE MORITA, OPINON CONTRIBUTOR

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced a crackdown on e-cigarette sales to minors, but before then, the city of Chicago had already taken matters into its own hands. The City Council passed an ordinance to require tobacco dealers to post warning signs at their doors about the health risks of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. These signs, once designed and distributed, will also contain quit-line numbers to help our residents beat a nicotine addiction.

The ordinance, introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, reflects the nation’s growing understanding that e-cigarettes, also known as vaping products, are the latest effort by Big Tobacco to get our kids hooked on a risky and potentially deadly habit.

To be sure, our country has made strides fighting tobacco use, with declining rates of smoking and lung cancer deaths. In Chicago, we have reduced cigarette smoking rates by high school students from 13.6 percent in 2011 to 6.0 percent today, a record low.

Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behaviors Survey the rate of cigar smoking (7.2 percent) and e-cigarette use (6.6 percent) is now higher than cigarettes among Chicago high school students. Even more concerning, 14.5 percent of students report tobacco use of any kind. Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States.

E-cigarettes hit the market in 2004 and since then we’ve seen their use rise dramatically. Nearly all e-cigarettes use flavored liquids that attract young people with names like Gummy Bear, Cherry Crush and Crème Brulee. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and harmful toxins, making them addictive and dangerous to youth, whose developing brains are more susceptible to addiction. Other tobacco products such as cigarillos and dip, which are known to cause cancer, also come in flavors that entice youth.

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