OPINION M108: We need to combat dangerous rise in youth vaping
Tobacco is dangerous. It deteriorates and exploits our communities and leads to massive disparities in our health care system. That is why so many Black, Indigenous and People of Color organizations are strongly in favor of Measure 108. We must do everything we can to reduce the impact of vaping and smoking in our communities. We must fight back against the tobacco industry's predatory targeting of our young people.
Studies show the most effective way to reduce tobacco use is to raise the price, but Oregon still doesn't tax nicotine vapes — even as use is skyrocketing. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in Oregon. Our state has the lowest cigarette taxes on the West Coast and higher smoking rates than our neighbors.
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And now, even in the face of vaping illnesses, tobacco companies are using the same tactics with vapes that they do with cigarettes — targeting low-income communities with the least access to health care and getting them addicted for life. They are selling vapes flavored like gummy bears and cotton candy, making them cheap and easy for kids to get. Just a few blocks from Rosa Parks Elementary School, vapes are being sold for 99 cents at a local convenience store. Near Jefferson High School another store has candy flavored vapes sitting next to a Reese's Peanut Butter cup display. The state survey of young people who vape shows that they mostly get them from their neighborhood stores, purchased by an older friend. The marketing is aggressive, and it is insidious. There are more than 15,000 vape flavors and they are made to appeal to children.
The tobacco industry knows what it's doing. Youth vaping in Oregon has increased 80% among 11th graders over the past two years. This is a shocking and dangerous fact. According to the Journal of American Medicine, children who vape are three times more likely to start smoking. We know that tobacco has a devastating effect on our communities, and we pay a very high price because of it.
We pay in medical bills and we pay with our lives. Black, Brown and Indigenous People of Color experience disparate health outcomes because of increased tobacco use. We have among the highest rates of lung cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses caused by tobacco.
For our communities, Measure 108 is a win-win. It increases the cost of tobacco to reduce youth access and provides essential funding for health programs. Ninety percent of the revenue from Measure 108 will go to fund the Oregon Health Plan, which provides coverage to more than 1 million Oregonians, including 400,000 children (regardless of their immigration status — known as "Cover All Kids"). Our families and our communities count on OHP to be there when we need it, particularly in this time of increased unemployment due to the pandemic. Measure 108 will also dramatically increase funding for programs to prevent people from smoking and help people quit. The tobacco companies spend $1 million an hour marketing their deadly products. This is our chance to fight back.
Measure 108 has the support of more than 250 organizations and local leaders, including ours. We hope you will join us in voting "yes" by Nov. 3 on Measure 108.
Danaya Hall is a registered nurse and founder of the Alliance of Black Nurses of Oregon. Coua Xiong is the civic engagement manager of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.
This column was co-authored by Angel Harris, Corvallis-Albany NAACP; Eric Richardson, Eugene/Springfield NAACP; Jill Ginsberg, North by Northeast Community Health Center; Kerri Lopez, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board; Olivia Quiroz, Oregon Latino Health Coalition; and Gil Muñoz, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and Foundation.
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