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This week is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. This observance emphasizes the need to stop youths from smoking or help them quit smoking.
One thing that is working is flavored tobacco bans or restrictions.
“Policies that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco have the potential to curb youth tobacco use in as few as 6 months,” according to a recent study from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and RAND Corporation.
Let’s explore how leaders are addressing youth use of flavored tobacco products.
What Did a Massachusetts Study Reveal about Flavored Tobacco Bans?
A 2019 Massachusetts and RAND Corporation study evaluated the short-term impact of a flavored tobacco restriction policy on youth access to, and use of, flavored tobacco products in Lowell, Mass. (18.1% Latino).
Researchers compared Lowell to Malden, a similar city with no such policy.
They found that flavored tobacco availability decreased significantly in Lowell from baseline to follow-up periods by 70 percentage points, from 77.3% to 7.3%.
Malden experienced no significant changes in flavored tobacco availability.
“In addition, current use of both flavored and non-flavored tobacco decreased in Lowell, but increased in Malden from baseline to follow-up,” according to the study. “These changes were significantly different between communities.”
The study credited Lowell’s rigorous enforcement infrastructure. This included multiple education visits and education materials, such as a flavored product list.
“With a longer follow-up time, the authors expect these trends will continue, and the policy may begin to impact and reduce flavored tobacco initiation, as exposure to flavored tobacco among younger students continues to decline,” according to the study.
Why Do We Need to Address Flavored Tobacco Use among Youth?
U.S. cigarette smoking rates have declined from 42% in 1965 to 13.7% in 2019.
Still, Nearly 18.6 million people are current smokers of menthol cigarettes.
Youth who smoke are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than older smokers.
Youth ages 18-21 are also most at risk of becoming habitual smokers. Longer duration of smoking is associated with increased risk for lung cancer, lung cancer death, and coronary heart disease.
What Is Being Done to Address Flavored Tobacco Use among Youth?
On April 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars within the next year. The aim is to save lives and prevent future generations of smokers.
But the ban does not cover other tobacco products, such as open system e-cigarettes, disposable e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and hookah.
That is why states and cities, like Lowell in the study, are joining the effort.
In 2019, New York became the first state to implement a statewide ban on most flavored nicotine vaping products. In 2020, the California State Assembly passed a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vapes. Chicago also passed bans on sales of flavored vaping products.
By December 2020, 331 localities have placed some type of restriction on flavored tobacco products, according to a 2021 report from Truth Initiative.
This is important because millions of teens are hooked on vaping.
“In 2019, the year for which we have the most recent data, flavored tobacco product use was highest among non-Hispanic white youth (76.8%), compared with students of other non-Hispanic races (68.1%), Hispanics (63.1%), and non- Hispanic blacks (48.0%),” according to the Truth Initiative.
E-cigarettes are still relatively new. Researchers need to conduct more analysis over a more extended period to know what the long-term effects may be.
“Research on national use patterns, perceptions, marketing and existing policies makes clear that the United States must ban all flavored tobacco products to protect public health and keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people,” according to the Truth Initiative.
Quitxt Can Help You Quit Smoking
There is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure.
Quitting smoking and vaping is the most effective means of harm reduction.
Quitxt is a bilingual service for your smartphone that sends messages with culturally and regionally tailored support that can help you in quitting smoking and vaping.
The service was created by Amelie G. Ramirez, leader of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio and has helped many South Texas young adults to quit smoking.