According to the Truth Initiative; a national campaign dedicated to inspiring youth and young adults to reject tobacco, “more than three-quarters (77%) of public schools are within a 10-minute walk of at least one outlet selling tobacco”. Although this statistic speaks to a national survey, if you think about our schools in the Town of Ballston, we align pretty closely. That’s a problem, because exposure to tobacco advertising in retail environments is linked with an increased likelihood of children and adolescents becoming smokers in the future.
What’s even more worrisome is that these tobacco outlets are now exposing youth to Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) – (vaporizers, electronic cigarettes, hookah pens, tanks, etc.). Vaping is defined as “the act of inhaling vapor produced by any kind of e-cigarette or personal vaporizer.” These products ‘heat’ liquid to produce a ‘vapor’ which is inhaled. There are proponents of these mechanisms as smoking cessation tools, but there needs to be more research done before anyone should subscribe to this thinking.
I do write today to warn of a slippery slope. New York has made tremendous progress in reducing our rate of tobacco use among its youth. However, use of ENDS products in the same group doubled 10.5% to 20.6% between 2014 and 2016. Research shows that the marketing tactics proven to lead to youth smoking are contributing to the growth of ENDS and causing our young people to unwittingly begin a dependency on these products .
Are you perhaps thinking, “isn’t there an age restriction on these products?” Yes, these products are prohibited from being sold to anyone under 18, but students are getting them somewhere. The possibility exists the purchase point is a retailer located within a ten minute walk from their school.
Our communities have an opportunity (and responsibility) to protect our youth from a lifetime of potential disease from “old school” tobacco products, as well as any trendy new products that the big tobacco companies create to hook a new generation. An easy way to start is by restricting the number, location and or type of retailers that sell tobacco products within our municipality – especially near our schools.