As a registered respiratory therapist with a 41-year career caring for people with chronic disease due to nicotine addiction, I read Rob Port’s recent column, "When public health experts overreach the public loses faith," with great concern.
There is no question that flavored e-cigarettes are the No. 1 driver of the youth tobacco epidemic we're currently experiencing across the country. The 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that while cigarette smoking has reached historic lows, 20% of high-school students are currently vaping. Compared to 2017, youth are vaping more frequently. And 7 in 10 youth e-cigarette users are reporting one or more signs of nicotine dependence.
- Grim picture: Local third-graders vaping nicotine, a middle-schooler inhaling equivalent of six packs a day
E-cigarettes are drawing a whole generation of young people – many of whom would have never smoked – into addiction. Today’s e-cigarettes have high levels of nicotine that interrupt learning and can prime developing brains for addiction to nicotine and other substances. That’s why young people who use e-cigarettes are much more likely to become cigarette smokers.
It’s a false choice that we must select a “better” type of tobacco addiction. Instead, let’s work so that all people can grow up free from addiction. To achieve that goal, let’s invest more in programs to prevent youth addiction and help adults quit. We should also take flavored tobacco off the marketplace, since 80% of youth tobacco users start with a flavored product.
Preventing youth tobacco addiction isn’t a partisan issue or a power grab – it’s a common sense way to build a healthier future for our families and workforce.
Anderson lives in Fargo.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.