Last week I had the distinct pleasure of working with Washington State Secretary of Health, Dr. John Wiesman on spreading the message and intent about Washington House Bill #1054. This bill aims to raise the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years. Dr. Wiesman believes it is the single most important policy the legislature could adopt to protect the health of our kids and the health in Washington State. That’s quite a statement.
The reason for the suggested bill and increase in age for purchasing tobacco (including e-cigs, vapes, traditional cigarettes) is to prevent access to a curious, young, and vulnerable population. Most teens say they try e-cigs and cigarettes out of curiosity. And we know 90% of adult smokers get addicted before they turn into adults. As detailed in this post, Teens Using E-Cigarettes, use of e-cigarettes rose 900% between 2011 and 2015 as they have infiltrated middle and high school students’ environment. Most teens get tobacco and e-cigs from older teens. The Surgeon General even published a big report because of concerns for increasing addiction and use of tobacco products in children and teens and what it means for our country’s risks and our country’s health.
- In Washington, 75% of 10th graders who used cigarettes in the past 30 days received them through social sources, especially older friends.
- About 95% of adult tobacco users started using before they turned 21 years of age.
- As I understand it, this proposed legislation isn’t about being a “nanny” state, it’s about the welfare and health of our teens into adulthood. It’s about access to tobacco products for our most vulnerable. The brain continues to develop until age 25 years and nicotine gets in the way.
Also, the money matters. Each year, smoking-related illness costs Washingtonians $2.8 billion (Billion with a B) equating to more than $800 per household in taxes. This affects us all –$800 annually — per household goes to taxes to help deal with the effects of smoking! I think we could think of a lot better ways to spend tax payer dollars.
The big goal: prevent addiction and prevent early exposure to nicotine. Protect teens from largely unregulated products that cause harm. Redirect tax dollars to better causes. What do you think? I get attacked online when I author content and share data on protecting children and teens from e-cigs. Often it’s by lobbyists and online enthusiasts of e-cigarettes who cite data about the ways e-cigs help adults curb traditional tobacco use. And who wouldn’t want that? But this: we have no data that e-cigs are safe in children and teens and we have piling data that pinpoints risk, harm, and early addiction.