EDITORIAL: Do what it takes to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of teens
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If there’s one thing we’re dead sure about when it comes to e-cigarettes, it’s this:
Whatever it takes to keep them out of the hands of young people, do it.
We reject the argument of e-cigarette makers that teens haven’t been the target of their marketing efforts from day one. Why else would they offer kid-friendly flavors like bubble gum and strawberry and candy? And what else would explain why we have a teen “vaping” epidemic on our hands?
E-cigarette use among high school students has soared 75 percent this year compared to 2017, the Food and Drug Administration reported in September. Studies also show that young people who vape are much more likely than other teens to move on to smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes.
So we applaud City Hall and the FDA for taking aggressive steps to curb an unhealthy trend.
City Hall plans to file a lawsuit Tuesday against eight online retailers that were caught selling e-cigarettes to underage Chicagoans, a violation of the ordinance banning sales to anyone under 21.
One of those online sellers is called Kandypens Inc. Tell us that’s not targeting teens.
The eight online sellers were caught in a sting operation that also snared 15 brick-and-mortar stores that were cited for violating the ordinance. The city also is demanding information from 33 e-cigarette retailers and manufacturers regarding their marketing, sales policies and other practices.
“This is Marlboro Man and Joe Camel all over again,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Sun-Times. “They focus on kids and get them hooked early.”
Meanwhile, the FDA is expected this week to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes — all but menthol and mint — at retail outlets and gas stations. Flavored products would remain available online, though only at sites where the FDA plans to impose strict age verification requirements.
The FDA is taking the position, for now, that banning menthol and mint flavors might encourage vapers to switch to menthol-flavored regular cigarettes. But if teen vaping doesn’t decline, the FDA warns, retail sales of those flavors could be banned as well.
We see the value of e-cigarettes as a tool to help adult smokers quit. And frankly, if adults want to use these products, for any reason, that’s their business.
Our concern is keeping them out of the hands of minors. Teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco products in a non-cigarette form — such as water pipes — were about four to five times more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes in a year, according to a University of California study.
Those who used e-cigarettes were the most likely to turn to regular cigarettes.
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