Editorial: An answer to teens' 20% e-cig usage: Tobacco 21
Do teens you know complain about headaches, nausea and dizziness? If so, don't be too quick to brush it off as the flu. They might actually be "nic sick," i.e. suffering from nicotine poisoning.
Minnesota and Wisconsin health agencies recently reported that 1 in 5 highschoolers uses e-cigarettes. That's 20% of teens in our states — a steep and disturbing rise given that usage hovered at 7 or 8% just five years ago.
Last month, Illinois became the first Midwest state and the seventh in the nation to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21. Another five states have passed Tobacco 21 laws in the weeks since.
Why 21? Researchers have identified several sound reasons:
• 95% of addicted adult smokers started before age 21.
• Smoking among 15- to 17-year-olds would drop 25% if they couldn't purchase products until 21. This would reduce access and corresponding peer pressure.
• E-cigarette flavors — 15,500 varieties and counting from dingle berry to choo crunch — appeal most to children and young adults, who mistakenly believe something that sounds like candy is candy.
E-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking. In addition to nicotine, they contain heavy metals, formaldehyde, carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. Nicotine, of course, is highly addictive, and e-cigarettes deliver high doses.
Minnesota lawmakers have time before the 2019 sessions conclude Monday to pass Tobacco 21 legislation, which would limit tobacco sales to those who are age 21 and older. Wisconsin lawmakers should do the same. The sharp rise in nicotine woes and threats to academic performance and overall health say time is of the essence.