With little to no regulation on e-cigarettes, many are concerned not only about the long term health effects, but also how our youth are affected. As of now there is not a state or federal mandated minimum age requirement for the purchase of e-cigarettes. Some counties are beginning to develop and adopt policies that set a minimum age in order to purchase e-cigarettes and their contents, but it is not happening soon enough. Each day that there is no restriction on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors more of our youth are purchasing them, and even using them regularly.
E-cigarette companies are very strategic in their advertising, exploiting the fact that minors are able to purchase their products. With flavors like chocolate, fruit and mint, and claims that they are safe and not addictive, why wouldn’t minors want to try them? Tobacco companies also use product placement strategies to appeal to our youth. Recent environmental scans of local convenience stores show that e-cigarettes and e-cig liquids are often placed near the candy, gum and chip displays, right where minors are mostly likely to frequent. Next time you stop for gas, take a look around, you may be surprised by what you see.
Data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS,) which is a questionnaire given to 6-12 graders, shows that the percentage of students who used e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012. Students who reported using e-cigarettes in 2011 increased from 3.3% to 6.8% in 2012. The CDC recently published a statistic which states the number of U.S. youth who used e-cigarettes but have never smoked a regular cigarette, has more than tripled in the past three years from 79,000 in 2011 to over 263,000 in 2013.
It is time to stand up and take action to prevent more minors from using e-cigarettes. If you want to fight this recent trend contact your local legislator and tell them your thoughts about a minimum age requirement in WI.
For more information, contact Corie Zelazoski, Community Health Specialist with Oneida County Health Department, 715-369-6115.