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Montana’s e-cigarette rule is great first step

by Cathy White & John Cole
| June 21, 2020 1:00 AM

As physicians who look after the health of Montana’s children, we applaud Gov. Steve Bullock’s decision this week to make permanent a Montana state rule restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarette products.

The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) represents more than 130 pediatricians and pediatric specialists throughout our state. Our members stand in strong support of Montana’s administrative action to stand up to Big Tobacco’s influence and make the flavor rule for e-cigarettes permanent.

Gov. Bullock is taking a necessary step to fight the epidemic of vaping and tobacco use that has consumed our children and our schools. We also must address the other flavored tobacco products used to target our children.

Fifty-eight percent of high schoolers in Montana have used vaping devices (also known as e-cigarettes, or electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS), and 30 percent use them regularly.

We are now starting to see vaping products used in our 9- and 10-year old patients. In Montana, six times as many youth as adults now use e-cigarettes.

This epidemic is driven in large part by child-friendly candy and fruit flavorings, as well as deliberate marketing to adolescents and young adults.

Flavors are also found among other tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, and flavored smokeless tobacco, cigars and snus, added by tobacco companies in order to make these products gentler to use and more appealing to children.

Bright, colorful displays of these products, which come in bubblegum, cherry and grape flavors, are found in many of the stores Montana children go to buy gum and candy. In fact, many tobacco products look like candy and are displayed near sweets.

The tobacco industry has a long history of marketing its products in this way in order to create new generations of users. With e-cigarettes, it may have found its best tool, yet.

The explosion of vaping use is creating nicotine addiction among a whole new generation of children, who will then go on to suffer from tobacco-related diseases. In Montana, 300 kids under 18 will become new daily smokers this year. And 19,000 children currently under 18 will go on to die prematurely because of tobacco related diseases.

We are angry about Big Tobacco’s deliberate targeting of our children, and misleading campaigns to protect flavored vaping products.

One of the most insidious untruths Big Tobacco tells our children about vaping is that it is safe. It is certainly not.

We know that nicotine has effects on the developing brain, is highly addictive, and is toxic; and many other compounds used in vaping devices are known carcinogens. Nicotine exposure during adolescence harms the part of the brain that controls attention, learning, mood and impulse control. We know that when people start using tobacco in any form as teenagers, they are likely to continue.

Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products will help prevent kids from starting to use these products, help adults quit, and save lives.

Montana’s pediatricians applaud Governor Bullock for taking this important first step to protect kids. We call on our fellow Montanans to speak up in favor of making this rule permanent.

—Dr. John Cole, of Kalispell, is Vice President of the Montana Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Lauren Wilson, of Missoula, is AAP Secretary; and Dr. Cathy White, of Butte, if AAP President.