Statement from Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation:
As students across Minnesota go back to school, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation warns that Big Tobacco may be in their backpacks. The coalition of more than 60 organizations working to reduce youth tobacco use is sending a warning to parents, educators and students and urging lawmakers to do more to protect youth.
“Today’s tobacco products are designed by the industry to look like everyday items like candy and school supplies,” said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Through stealthy designs, high nicotine content, aggressive advertising and candy flavors, this generation of tobacco products threatens our progress to reduce teen smoking.”
The Minnesota Department of Health today issued a new advisory on youth nicotine addiction, calling it a “major health concern.” The advisory describes the dangers of nicotine addiction to young brains, and details the steps that parents, educators and school staff, health care providers and policymakers can take to reduce nicotine addiction. Resources are available on their page:health.mn.gov/ecigarettes. In April, the Minnesota Commissioners of Health and Education issued a joint letter to school administrators alerting them to an uptick in student nicotine use.
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation released a graphic that displays some tobacco products that parents may not recognize, including e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and snus. The goal is to raise awareness of these products before addiction sets in.
More than 26 percent of high-school students reported using tobacco products in the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The high-school tobacco use rate increased for the first time since the survey began in 2000, and is up 7 percent since 2014.
This disturbing increase is driven by a sharp rise in e-cigarette use, which is up 50 percent since 2014. This dramatic surge is a result of Big Tobacco’s aggressive marketing to youth, which includes prolific advertising, trendy devices, easy access to products and kid-friendly flavors.
The Legislature should take additional steps to reverse this alarming trend, such as increasing the tobacco age and restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. Since nearly all addicted tobacco users started before they turn 21, raising the tobacco sale age to 21 would curb addiction and keep tobacco products out of schools. Restricting the sale of kid-friendly flavored tobacco products to adult-only stores and including e-cigarettes in smoke-free air laws would also help curb the threat of youth addiction. Minnesota also should invest in robust tobacco prevention efforts that stop smoking before it starts. In 2017, Minnesota collected over $840 million in tobacco taxes and ongoing tobacco settlement payments. Less than 1 percent of these funds was spent on tobacco prevention, and none was dedicated to funding quit-smoking services.
“Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the adolescent brain no matter how it’s delivered,” Moilanen added. “Some of these popular devices are delivering a massive amount of nicotine. Youth often don’t realize or underestimate the amount of nicotine in these products, and are becoming hooked at a young age. As Minnesota students go back to school, we urge elected leaders to step up and do more to protect youth.”
Nicotine is addictive and can harm the adolescent brain. Source: U.S. Surgeon General
More than $110 million/year: how much the tobacco industry spends every year marketing and advertising their products in Minnesota. Source: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Nearly 95 percent: of addicted adult smokers started before age 21. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health).
Minnesota Youth Tobacco Trends – Source: 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey:
67 percent: of high-school tobacco users and nearly 60 percent of middle-school tobacco users reported using flavored products.
11 percent: of high-school students reported smoking cigars or cigarillos, a 30 percent increase (from 8 percent in 2014).
Almost 40 percent: of high-school students have tried e-cigarettes, which come in kid-friendly flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy.
Nearly one in five: high school students reporting using e-cigarettes in the past month – a nearly 50 percent surge in high-school from 13 percent in 2014.
88 percent of high school and middle school students: reported they have seen advertisements promoting e-cigarettes.
Minnesota Department of Health Nicotine Addiction Advisory
CDC Feature: “Keep Kids E-Cigarette Free”