Since e-cigarettes arrived on the market in 2007, young people across the country have been attracted to the addictive products. No surprise. E-cigarette manufacturers like Juul intentionally target youth through predatory marketing. That's why teens have an inaccurate perception that e-cigarettes are without harm. Despite significant advancements in reducing tobacco addiction among youth in recent decades, e-cigarettes have undone much of that progress.
Evidence shows that when e-cigarettes no longer quench the nicotine addiction among teens, they are likely to move to deadly combustible cigarettes. The business model of Big Tobacco is time tested. Because their current customers die every day, Big Tobacco depends on addicting today's youth to be tomorrow's smoker. About 95% of lifetime smokers begin their addiction before age 21.
What is equally egregious as targeting young people is the tobacco industry specifically targets certain vulnerable communities. Big Tobacco intentionally addicts communities of color, the LGBT community and folks experiencing mental illness.
As a volunteer goodwill ambassador for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Clackamas County and the uncle of an 11-year-old niece addicted to e-cigarettes, I have seen the harmful impact first-hand. I believe tobacco control is a matter of healthy equity. It's clear youth and marginalized communities are under constant attack, and our lawmakers have the power to better protect our community.
Requiring tobacco retailers to obtain a license is a proven strategy to discourage well-intentioned clerks from selling a young person their first tobacco product underage. Similar ordinances around the country have been proven to reduce youth access and initiation to addictive and potentially deadly products. It is clear our community supports the policy. When surveyed, 66% of retailers indicated support or a neutral position on the ordinance, according to Clackamas County's recently assembled taskforce on the issue. That is why I urge Clackamas County commissioners to pass a robust retail license ordinance.
County commissioners have the responsibility to protect our kids from the exploitative tactics of Big Tobacco. Our kids are worth it; do it!
David Jacques is a volunteer ambassador for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Clackamas County and also works with homeless communities of color.
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