To the editor:
The Minnesota Department of Health recently released findings from its 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey found that youth e-cigarette rates remain at epidemic levels, with 1-in-5 high-schoolers using e-cigarettes during the past month.
For the first time, that survey included a nicotine dependence scale for e-cigarettes. More than 7-in-10 young e-cigarette users are showing signs of dependence, and 34 percent are vaping more than 20 days per month. The survey also found that eight in 10 youth tobacco users said they started with a flavored tobacco product.
Many years ago, when I was writing a chapter on smoking for the Encyclopedia Britannica, I saw that the tobacco industry had reinvented itself many times with new products. This time it is e-cigarettes and vaping, and the declines in youth nicotine consumption we had seen have stalled. E-cigarettes are particularly attractive to children and people of color. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth, and e-cigarette use now could set youth on a path to lifetime addiction.
There are several factors driving e-cigarette use, particularly tobacco industry marketing of enticing flavored products on the marketplace.
We need to pass common-sense policies to interrupt this cycle of addiction.
The city of Bloomington has been discussing a policy that would end the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Our city would join more than 20 Minnesota communities that have already taken action to limit flavored products.
HealthPartners is the largest employer in Bloomington and as part of our mission we work to improve the health of our community. We can do this by preventing youth access to commercial tobacco. Preventing tobacco addiction would promote racial and health equity, a stated goal of the city, while improving our health and saving us all money. Those are goals we should all get behind.
Bloomington residents, like those of other cities, already bear the astronomical costs of smoking. I urge the city council and mayor to act now to prevent the next generation of addiction and health harms.
Kottke is the medical director for well-being at HealthPartners.