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New Mexico needs to protect its teens from E-cigs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — E-cigarettes are addicting teenagers to nicotine.

Teenage use of electronic cigarettes (EC) has reached epidemic proportions. In 2011, fewer than 3 percent of high school seniors used ECs. In the past 12 months the number has increased to 37 percent, up from 28 percent in 2017. The epidemic has been fueled by the Juul, a stylish EC that has captured more than 70 percent of the market. The Juul company is being investigated for aggressively promoting to teenagers. Even if it stops, the damage has been done, Juul’s wild popularity will continue to addict teenagers.

ECs, unlike cigarettes, are a pleasant way for kids to start using tobacco products. Unlike cigarettes, from the first puff they taste good with bubble gum, fruit medley and crème brûlée flavors – (the last) clearly directed at geriatric vapers. Flavor is the reason 60 percent of teens start using. More than half do not know ECs contain nicotine, and like their parents, they think they are safe.

Nicotine is a dangerous substance for teens. It can damage the rapidly developing teenage brain, (and) the particulate matter in vapor penetrates deeply into the lungs and can cause damage. Analysis of the liquid and vapor demonstrates carcinogens. Second-hand vaping exposes bystanders to carcinogens. We are just learning the potential harms of EC use to the user and the public. We do not know that ECs are safer than cigarettes and will take years to find out.

E-cigarettes are a gateway drug to smoking cigarettes. Kids who vape are two to four times more likely to smoke cigarettes one year after starting vaping. Based on cigarette research, we know that waiting to age 21 without smoking makes it unlikely (someone) will ever start. The same likely applies to E-cigarettes.

I had hopes for ECs, but although the manufacturers claim EC help people quit cigarettes, there is little data to support that contention. In fact the opposite may be true, since 70 percent of EC users also smoke. A recent NIH funded study concluded that for every one person that using EC helps quit smoking, 80 people will start.

To address this epidemic of teenage EC use, The New Mexico Senate and House will be voting on SB 338, 339, 342 and 343 sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque and HB 256, 269 and 260 sponsored by Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, to raise price and age to purchase ECs, eliminate addition of flavors and place EC use under the Dee Johnson clean air act.

I urge voters to talk to their children about this danger and call their legislator to support this important public health initiative.

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