We’ve made incredible progress against tobacco’s reign over youth, but the battle is far from over. Tobacco use is responsible for the death of nearly half a million Americans and more than 8 million people worldwide each year.
When it comes to the effect on youth, more than two million middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes in the United States, and 85% of youth e-cigarette users are using flavored products—with 7 in 10 saying they use e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.” Menthol cigarettes, which cool and numb the throat and mask the harshness of tobacco smoke, make it easier to start smoking. Currently, 41% of high school smokers use menthol cigarettes.
By prohibiting flavored and menthol tobacco products, we not only protect our children but also eliminate health disparities and improve health equity among populations that the tobacco industry and its predatory marketing specifically target. Research has indicated that for decades, the tobacco industry has marketed menthol cigarettes to Black communities. In the 1950s, less than 10% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes, but today, that number sits at 85%.
But prohibiting tobacco products is just half of the battle—cessation resources must also be readily available for those who want to quit. We support the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act, which ensures that all individuals enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program have access to evidence-based tobacco cessation treatments. Additionally, the act would provide enhanced federal matching to cover cessation treatment and state outreach campaigns to educate providers and Medicaid enrollees during the COVID-19 public health emergency and for two years after.
ONS’s e-cigarette and tobacco position statements demonstrate the Society’s alignment with those goals. As a coalition member, ONS joins the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to actively work at the local, state, and federal levels to prohibit all flavored tobacco products by developing strategic communication and policy advocacy campaigns.
Our voice is amplified by ONS and the healthcare professionals we work with daily: oncology professionals serve an incredibly important role by sharing their stories of patients who are affected by tobacco. Nurses are among the most trusted voices in health care, and they offer a vital perspective for policy makers to hear from. Writing letters to the editor, reaching out to legislators, and posting on social media are just some of the small actions you can take to be supportive of critical tobacco control policies.
Our collective voice shows the breadth of support for implementing policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives. Together, we are fighting back against the tobacco industry.