December 1, 2021, 5:02PM
Up to date 1 hour in the past
The proliferation of digital cigarettes and vaping gadgets are hooking rising numbers of American children on nicotine at earlier ages, a disturbing pattern right here in Petaluma and elsewhere that delights executives at massive tobacco corporations who face a regularly shrinking demand for his or her conventional product: cigarettes.
E-cigarettes, which first entered the U.S. market in 2006, work by vaporizing nicotine liquid. They embody a small battery, a plastic cartridge and a heating mechanism that turns the nicotine liquid into an aerosol which the consumer inhales. However to develop its youthful clientele, e-cigarette producers devised a deliciously intelligent concept: supply an unlimited array of candy, kid-friendly flavors within the nicotine juice with engaging names like “Banana Split,” “Cotton Candy,” “Cherry Crush” and “Skittles.” Such candy flavors, trade leaders believed, would enhance the style and masks the harshness of the tobacco merchandise, making it simpler for teenagers to attempt them out.
The trade’s advertising ploy wildly exceeded all expectations, rapidly reversing America’s decades-long progress in lowering youth tobacco use. As we speak, hundreds of thousands of younger folks throughout the nation who’ve by no means smoked a conventional cigarette are actually nicotine-addicted, together with many children proper right here in Petaluma.
Astoundingly, vape gadgets comprise or produce quite a lot of chemical substances for which the impacts on lung tissue are largely unknown, in response to the U.S. Surgeon Common. Amongst them are a number of identified carcinogens and different chemical substances strongly linked to lung illness. That is all along with nicotine, a extremely addictive substance which may negatively impression college students’ studying, reminiscence and a focus whereas additionally inflicting anxiousness, temper problems and the everlasting decreasing of impulse management.
Regardless of the plain hurt to kids and younger adults, the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration has been painfully gradual to successfully analysis and regulate e-cigarette gadgets, partly because of the tobacco trade’s oft-repeated but fully unproven assertion that their merchandise are someway serving to grownup cigarette people who smoke to give up smoking.
Given the FDA’s dithering on the matter, California state lawmakers handed a invoice final 12 months to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco merchandise which might be particularly manufactured to addict children to nicotine. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the laws which was to have gone into impact earlier this 12 months.
However the regulation was placed on maintain after a consortium of tobacco corporations, together with R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, used questionable signature-gathering ways to qualify a poll referendum in 2022 when voters will select to both affirm or repeal the ban. Whereas the referendum is more likely to fail, the 22-month delay permits the businesses to maintain cashing in on the extremely profitable candy-flavored tobacco gross sales as extra California children turn into addicted.
Whereas the referendum course of might have stalled the state’s effort to guard children, it hasn’t prevented native cities and counties from implementing their very own flavored tobacco gross sales restrictions.
Right here in Petaluma, a whopping 54 shops are promoting digital and flavored tobacco merchandise and lots of aren’t abiding by state prohibitions towards gross sales to anybody beneath the age of 21. That is borne out in information from previous sting occasions and surveys.
What’s extra, throughout the 2019-20 faculty 12 months, 27% of Petaluma’s highschool juniors and greater than half of its different highschool college students reported usually utilizing e-cigarettes or different vaping gadgets. Greater than 10% of native center faculty college students are additionally common customers.
The well being disaster was so dangerous in 2019 that Petaluma Metropolis Colleges obtained grant funding to underwrite an habit counseling program, nicotine cessation lessons and the set up of “vape detectors” in class loos and hallways.
Petaluma resident Pam Granger, chair of Tobacco Free Sonoma County, says she first started listening to a number of years in the past from involved native mother and father who reported their children had developed nicotine habit and attendant respiratory points after shopping for digital tobacco merchandise at native shops.
Noting the convenience with which native children had been in a position to buy such gadgets, Granger has since labored tirelessly to encourage Petaluma metropolis officers to undertake a tobacco retail license ordinance which has confirmed to be a extremely efficient device at lowering unlawful tobacco gross sales in different communities.
Granger’s exhausting work is about to repay: On Monday, the Petaluma Metropolis Council is predicted to formally undertake simply such a regulation that may ban the sale of flavored tobacco merchandise, set the next minimal worth for e-cigarette cartridges and require tobacco retailers to pay a license price to fund enforcement of state tobacco sale legal guidelines, together with retailer inspections and youth buy compliance checks.
In adopting this new regulation, anticipated to take impact in July, Petaluma follows the lead set by dozens of different California cities together with Windsor, Sonoma, Healdsburg and Sebastopol. Sadly, the County of Sonoma has an outdated tobacco management ordinance which Granger says needs to be up to date to align with the cities’ simpler legal guidelines so native insurance policies to guard children’ well being will probably be uniformly enforced throughout the area.
Whereas she is grateful the Metropolis is lastly taking motion, Granger says the menace to children’ well being continues to escalate.
“I recently heard from a principal at a Petaluma elementary school that a sixth grader had brought a vape device onto campus,” she advised me, including that nicotine habit for a 12-year-old is more likely to trigger irreparable hurt.
Granger is captivated with stopping that from occurring to any extra native kids.
“We will continue working together using multiple strategies to keep Big Tobacco from making our kids their next generation of customers,” Granger mentioned.
Petaluma children are solely now simply starting to get better from the trauma of getting misplaced greater than a 12 months of in-person classroom instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and lots of are actually getting vaccinated to forestall them from catching the illness.
Too dangerous there is no such thing as a vaccine stopping the tobacco trade from addicting our youngsters to nicotine.
John Burns is a former writer of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.