GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The United States Food and Drug Agency, just released proposed new rules to eliminate menthol cigarettes, and eliminate all flavors from cigars.
Smoking has been around for decades. Whether you started smoking because it was popular, or to relieve stress it’s an addiction that kills. These days tobacco products include e-cigarettes, vapes, and flavored cigars, “High school students in particular are using both cigarettes and vape products at a higher rate than our state,” Heidi Dragoo, Mesa County Public Health’s Research and Planning Program Manager said.
Mesa County Public Health(MCPH) says adults in Mesa County smoke at a higher percentage than the state average. Healthy Kids Colorado, surveyed student’s in 2019 and found one third of Mesa County high school students used tobacco products, “Our focus is always at look at the local data and using that data to inform action,” Dragoo says.
MCPH not only tracks which demographics are currently using tobacco products, but also those who just tried them, “When we switch over to ever use, we know that in Mesa County, about half of our high school students have reported ever using a vape product,” Dragoo says.
That’s 51% of students, topping the state average of 46%, “That’s not the whole story, one thing we see from that same data set is the perception of harm is very different,” Dragoo says.
Local health officials say with new products like flavored vapes, teens believe they don’t have the same harm as traditional cigarettes, but the American Cancer Society says, that’s not the case, “It’s not smoke, but it’s not water vapor,” RJ Ours, American Cancer Society’s Government Relations Director says, “It has heavy metals in it, some of which aren’t in tobacco smoke.”
The FDA says the proposed menthol flavoring ban could prevent more people from getting addicted and ultimately save up to 460,000 lives, “This has happened incrementally over the last 13 years, so now here we are finally at this point,” Ours said.
The FDA’s proposed rules aren’t the only legislation. House Bill 22 1064 aims to prohibit distribution of flavored tobacco products, and provide direct prevention services to local health departments using a grant program to address community needs, “There’s the old saying that states are really the incubator of what’s new and what’s opportune to try,” Ours said.
By fighting big tobacco on a federal and state level, the American Cancer Society says we can save lives, but times running out for HB22 1064 in this year’s legislative session.