State Leaders Challenged to Fight Skyrocketing Epidemic of Youth E-Cigarette Use
“Students from Somerville, in partnership with Somerville Cares About Prevention and the City of Somerville Health and Human Services Department, will chalk messages on the sidewalks around City Hall and in front of Somerville High School to raise awareness about the harms of tobacco use and to promote positive social norms.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kids in Massachusetts will unite against tobacco use on March 20 as they join thousands of young people nationwide to mark Kick Butts Day, an annual day of youth activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. More than 1,000 events are planned across the United States (see below for a list of local events).
This year, kids are focused on kicking Juul, the e-cigarette that has become enormously popular among youth across the country.
While cigarette smoking among high school students nationwide has fallen to 8.1 percent, e-cigarette use among high schoolers rose by an alarming 78 percent in 2018 alone – to 20.8 percent of the student population. In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes. U.S. public health leaders have called youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic” that is addicting a new generation of kids.
In Massachusetts, 20.1 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, while 6.4 percent smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use claims 9,300 lives in Massachusetts and costs the state $4.1 billion in health care bills each year.
On Kick Butts Day, youth and health advocates are calling for strong action to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic. In particular, they are calling on the Food and Drug Administration, states and cities to ban all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes in flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear and mango that tempt kids. Other effective strategies to reduce youth tobacco use include laws raising the tobacco sale age to 21, significant tobacco tax increases, comprehensive smoke-free laws and well-funded tobacco prevention programs.
In Massachusetts, youth and health advocates are supporting state and local efforts to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, especially menthol cigarettes, which the tobacco industry has targeted at African Americans. Advocates are focused on menthol as a social justice issue because these products have caused so much death and disease in the African-American community.
“This year on Kick Butts Day, we’re challenging policy makers at every level to do their part to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We cannot allow e-cigarettes, especially Juul, to addict another generation and reverse the enormous progress we’ve made in reducing youth tobacco use.”
Key facts about e-cigarettes include:
The main cause of the youth e-cigarette epidemic is Juul, which looks like a computer flash drive, is small and easy to hide, delivers a powerful dose of nicotine, and comes in kid-friendly flavors like mango, fruit and mint. According to the manufacturer, each Juul “pod” (cartridge) delivers as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.
E-cigarettes pose serious health risks for kids. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that youth use of nicotine in any form – including e-cigarettes – is unsafe, causes addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain, affecting learning, memory and attention. Studies also show that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become cigarette smokers.
On Kick Butts Day, youth join in creative events including signing pledges to be tobacco-free, learning about the harmful chemicals in tobacco products and organizing rallies at state capitols.
In Massachusetts, activities include:
Students from Somerville, in partnership with Somerville Cares About Prevention and the City of Somerville Health and Human Services Department, will chalk messages on the sidewalks around City Hall and in front of Somerville High School to raise awareness about the harms of tobacco use and to promote positive social norms. Time: 3:30 PM. Location: 81 Highland Avenue, Somerville. Contact: Lovelee Heller (617) 625-6600 ext. 4322.
On April 3, local youth from across the state will take a stand against tobacco at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The 84 Movement will host a tobacco prevention rally where students will meet with their state representatives and senators to talk about the dangers of smoking. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will host an awards ceremony for health leaders, public officials, and the press to recognize youth and adult leaders in the fight against the tobacco industry. Time: 8:30 AM. Location: 24 Beacon Street, Boston. Contact: Jenna Carter (617) 279-2240 ext. 373.
All events will take place March 20 unless otherwise indicated. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Massachusetts, visit http://www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at http://www.tobaccofreekids.org.