As a parent and educator I want to respond to several misleading claims in the letter, "Bill in Minnesota Legislature would hurt border state businesses," published online March 29.

I am glad the author indicates that children shouldn’t access e-cigarettes. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I am urging the Minnesota Legislature to strengthen our tobacco prevention laws. We have an opportunity this session to close e-cigarette tax loopholes and invest in youth tobacco prevention, and I want to thank Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, for leading these efforts in the House.

It’s an established fact that e-cigarettes – which come in thousands of kid-friendly flavors – are responsible for Minnesota’s high youth tobacco rates. The Minnesota Department of Health found that one in five high-school students is currently vaping.

Minnesota youth are vaping more frequently and reporting signs of nicotine dependence. The author commented about a concern that youth might turn to counterfeit products, stating “these counterfeit products can cause even more harm due to the unknown additives.” Do not be swayed; there are harmful products in all e-cigarettes and vape products. We owe it to our children to make laws consistent with their well-being.

Taxes are proven to be the best way to keep kids away from tobacco products. Studies have found youth are two to three times more responsive to price increases than adults.

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It will take a comprehensive approach to reverse the youth tobacco epidemic. In addition to taxes and strong prevention investments, local and state leaders should end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, which drive youth tobacco use and contribute to health disparities.

The author also commented about how, “These problems will result in increased illicit sales and decrease accessibility to safer smoking alternatives.” Let’s not be fooled; there are not safer smoking alternatives. We can’t fall for the tobacco industry’s scare tactics. Instead, let’s work together to put health before tobacco industry profits.

I support efforts to close e-cigarette tax loopholes and invest in lifesaving prevention. Together we can stop youth addiction before it starts. And if you are looking for help to quit smoking, vaping or chewing, I encourage you to call 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit quitpartnermn.com to access free quit-tobacco help.

Kimberly Waale lives in Dilworth.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.