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OPINION: We know that the tobacco industry targets youth. We need to act to curb youth vaping.

I support Ballot Measure 108 because there's a youth vaping epidemic in Oregon, and yet the tobacco industry is marketing cheap, candy-flavored vapes to trap young people into a lifelong addiction.

Earlier this month, Reynolds Tobacco announced they reduced the cost of their vape pens to 99 cents, less than the cost of a candy bar.

We know that the single best way to prevent teens from vaping (and help many quit) is to raise the price. But Oregon doesn't tax vapes a single penny. That's a problem that can be fixed by voting yes on Measure 108.

When I started high school, I saw e-cigarettes and vaping everywhere. They are easy to hide and don't have a strong odor. I've seen people take a hit in the classroom, hiding it under their hoodie. So many of my peers are vaping that one time I went into the bathroom and couldn't breathe because the vape clouds were so thick.

I studied vaping in my public health class. One in four Oregon 11th-graders say they have vaped. Even more frightening, vaping is moving into middle schools. According to research published in the Journal of American Medicine, youth who vape are three times more likely to start smoking.

The pressure to vape or use e-cigarettes is immense, both from other students and from the tobacco companies who make it look cool on social media. But people aren't getting the truth. This is a dangerous product — you don't know what it is doing to your body and that it will lead to other addictions.

After an alarming number of vaping related illnesses and deaths last year, the state convened the Oregon Vaping Public Health Work Group to reduce youth vaping. The group's top recommendation is to increase the price of vapes. The workgroup estimates that for every 10% increase in vape prices, youth use reduces up to 20%.

Measure 108 will, for the first time, tax vapes to reduce youth access. It also increases the cigarette tax to be more in line with Washington and California. According to Tobacco Free Kids, Measure 108 will prevent nearly 12,000 tobacco-related deaths and reduce smoking-related health care costs by $1.5 billion per year.

Just as important to me is that the funds from Measure 108 will go to health and healthcare programs. These dollars will help prevent people from tobacco use and provide resources to help people quit. Measure 108, which was drafted and approved by a bipartisan committee of the Oregon legislature, specifically allocates the funds to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and the Oregon Health Plan, which provides coverage for more than a million Oregonians, including 400,000 kids and teens.

Measure 108 has brought Oregonians together, united to protect health and save lives.

More than 220 organizations, small businesses and chambers of commerce — including the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce — are endorsing Measure 108, joining the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Oregon Nurses Association, and other healthcare organizations.

I urge you to join us in standing up to the tobacco industry, protecting children and youth from addiction and voting yes on Measure 108 in November. To learn more and join the campaign, go to Yeson108.org.

Bianca Gherghe is a senior at Westview High School. She lives in Bethany.


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