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Tobacco 21 signed into MN State Law What does this mean for youth who vape and use tobacco products?
What is Tobacco 21?
On May 16, 2020, Governor Tim Walz signed a bill raising Minnesota’s tobacco sales age to 21. This came into effect on August 1st, 2020. The new state law reinforces the federal Tobacco 21 law signed by President Trump in December 2019. Raising the tobacco age to 21 will help keep tobacco products out of schools, since there are many 18-year-olds but few 21-year-olds in high school social circles. Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started before 21. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that Tobacco 21 would lead to enormous health gains, including a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15-to-17-year-olds.
Why we need to do more for our youth than Tobacco 21?
Action is needed to combat rising youth tobacco use. The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found that more than a quarter of 11th-graders and more than one in 10 8th-graders used e-cigarettes in the past month. From 2016 to 2019, 8th-grade vaping rates nearly doubled. E-cigarette use has erased two decades of progress to reduce youth tobacco rates and the U.S. Surgeon General calls youth vaping an epidemic. Health experts are concerned about e-cigarette use because nicotine in any form harms the developing adolescent brain and can prime youth for addiction to cigarettes and other substances. The COVID-19 pandemic added urgency for adopting stronger tobacco prevention polices. Early studies have found COVID-19 may be dangerous for people with lungs weakened by chronic disease, asthma, and tobacco use.
Data about Youth vaping and tobacco use
The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found combustible cigarettes which fell to the lowest levels ever recorded (Conventional cigarette use: Grade 8: 2.4 percent, Grade 9: 3 percent, Grade 11: 5 percent).
This is a major public health achievement. However, e-cigarette use (aka vaping) continues to rise. Youth e-cigarette use is a public health threat. A 2019 CDC report found that over a quarter of American high-school students had vaped in the past month. This is consistent with the recent MN Student survey results. The 2019 MN Student Survey found that e-cigarette use has increased sharply since 2016 among Minnesota high school students, and students now use e-cigarettes at five times the rate of conventional cigarette use.
The Problem with the tobacco Industry
The tobacco industry exploits Minnesota youth and certain populations and targets them with aggressive marketing and cheap, accessible, and attractive products.
The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found these trends start young. More than a quarter of Minnesota 11th graders now report using e-cigarettes and the 8th grade vaping rate has nearly doubled since 2016.
Weak federal rules have left thousands of flavored products on the market including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, smokeless products, e-cigarettes, and other products.
These products are highly attractive to youth.
97% of national youth e-cig users use flavored vapes 67% of Minnesota high-school tobacco users use flavored products, according to the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey
Minnesota and Winona County needs ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to reverse the youth tobacco epidemic, including:
1. Prohibiting flavored products
2. Investing in prevention
3. Raising the price of all tobacco products.
These policies work together to address the attractiveness, appeal, affordability, and availability of tobacco products. Our goal at ASAP is to educate youth and the Winona Community about tobacco’s harm and the importance of tobacco prevention policies.
Board of Director for Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention. Sector Rep. for Health.