Opinion: County public health agency advocates for Proposition 31
– Public health professionals have fought to prevent the deadly impacts of nicotine addiction in every city, county, and state for decades. It’s why we support public health interests over tobacco interests and endorse California’s Proposition 31.
Nationally, 13 people die from tobacco-related disease every minute and, despite the tobacco industry being forced to admit the addictive power of nicotine, the industry continues to focus strategies on attracting younger users. No other commercial industry has been so persistent in the drive to profit from enticing new, younger people to become addicted.
Four out of five youth who have used tobacco started with a flavored product. Tobacco companies continue to manipulatively attract young users with candy-flavored products like cotton candy, gummy bear, and minty menthol. Flavored tobacco products have been a particularly harmful innovation as the flavoring masks the natural, unappealing taste of tobacco, making it easier to smoke more and become addicted.
New electronic smoking devices can also deliver large doses of nicotine. These high doses of nicotine harm young users by both affecting brain development and impacting attention, mood, and impulse control and by putting the youth at even greater risk of nicotine addiction and consequent behavioral complications.
In fact, in Sept. 2022, 34 states and territories won a $438 million settlement against a major tobacco product manufacturer, Juul, for marketing its products to underage users. As reported in The New York Times on 9/6/22, 45 percent of Juul’s Twitter followers were ages 13 to 17.
California tried to create protections for our youth by legislating a ban on flavored tobacco products. This legislation passed with broad bipartisan support in 2020, but the tobacco industry spent millions to delay implementation by forcing it to this expensive ballot initiative.
We stand with commendable health organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society, the California Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We, as a community, can do more to protect our neighbors and our children by voting “yes” to protect our kids and voting “yes” on Proposition 31 this November.
– Penny E. Borenstein, MD, MPH
San Luis Obispo County Health Officer
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