- A consensus report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) concluded that “There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults.” This conclusion was reached through studies of vaping product that deliver lower nicotine levels than Juul and Juul-like products.
- While speed of addiction is highly context-dependent, higher nicotine levels have been an established tobacco industry method to addict more people, faster. We can assume that higher nicotine levels in e-cigarettes is very likely resulting in substantially higher addiction rates in our youth.
- More Colorado youth are vaping compared to the national average (Aspen Times story).
There are many more dimensions to this increase in youth nicotine use, so this is not an exhaustive list of concerns. We need to be asking ourselves whether our current control strategies are nimble enough to respond to an industry that is constantly innovating ways to addict kids to nicotine.
There is already a lot of work being done in response to these developments. In 2016, the FDA began implementing broader enforcement under its “new” regulatory authorities granted under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Their enforcement activities, notably including e-cigarettes, are primarily retail inspection and compliance checks (including stings using undercover minors). The FDA also has the authority to mandate the reduction of nicotine levels in all tobacco products to near zero, and advocates are waiting eagerly for news on whether they will move forward with that.
At the state level, CDPHE just opened access to a GIS (geographic information system)-enabled database of tobacco retailers, inspections, and violations, overlayed with myriad community attribute data (like school location). With this tool, called Tobacco Retailer Access Colorado (TRAC), LPHAs and communities can clearly see which of their local retailers have been caught selling to minors or violating other regulations. This will permit a new level of scrutiny on establishments that, in the words of one state tobacco policy expert, “are recruitment centers for new smokers.”
At our local level, more and more Colorado counties and municipalities are starting to regulate tobacco on their own. Eleven areas now have some level of regulation and enforcement, from T21 to taxes on all tobacco products.
This is not an exhaustive list of emerging tobacco control efforts. There are myriad lawsuits and campaigns on both sides of the fight that continue largely outside the public eye. To stay on top of these critical public health efforts, bookmark Tobacco-Free Colorado and visit often!