Photo: (Jacqueline García/La Opinion) / Impremedia
Nowadays, it is common to see tobacco companies marketing their products offering them with sweet flavors to attract younger people.
Under their slogans “With caramel flavor” it is easy to hook them to smoke regular cigarettes or to ‘vape’ electronic cigarettes since they come with flavors of chocolate, peach, cotton candy, strawberry, grape and even
What many young people are unaware of is that tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death.
In the city of Santa Ana, in Orange County, the effort to stop the sale of these products is increasing as their use is alarming. It is estimated that one in four high school students in the city have used electronic cigarettes in the last 30 days.
Daniella Hernandez, 17, is a student at Segerstorm High School and said it’s impressive to her to see that there is a tobacco store just a few feet from her school.
“Sometimes when we get out of school we go to eat at McDonald’s and it’s impossible not to see the store [de tabaco] in the same shopping center as McDonald’s and where there is also a supermarket”, indicated the 12th grade student.
He noted that not only is it unsightly for people who oppose vaping and secondhand smoke, but these stores have become a negative influence on youth.
He added that seeing so many tobacco shops in the city makes him feel like the community — which is primarily Latino — isn’t worth it.
Hernández said that he recently participated in a project with the organization America On Track where they found that there are a significant number of tobacco stores located near middle and high schools.
“Unfortunately, this is also a problem for parents who, when they see something happen to their children, do not know what it is because they do not understand the language. [inglés]”, he explained.
Eder López, 18, another young man who advocates against the use of these chemicals, said he constantly offers information on this topic to students at his Foothill High School. However, he confesses that there are students who accept it but others are not interested.
“We have seen this more [uso de tabaco de sabores] in the sports department, students see someone do it and try to fit in,” said the 12th grader. “A lot of people who vape don’t want to hear about the problems it causes anymore.”
López said that there is also a tobacco store very close to his school.
The young people indicated that they have never smoked in their lives but that they are aware that this problem is growing in their communities and they want to be part of the change.
Both are part of the Santa Ana Fights Flavors campaign dedicated to stopping the use of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes in the city.
Next Tuesday, January 18, the Santa Ana City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance that seeks to ban the sale of flavored tobacco in the city.
Hernandez said he first heard about e-cigarette use when he was in middle school. She said that there were rumors that the boyfriend of a classmate would come to sell them to the students, who on average were between 12 and 14 years old.
“I didn’t know anything about that and I thought it was normal,” he said.
Lopez also recounted the first time she heard about students vaping in middle school.
“The children went to the bathrooms to smoke and one saw them but didn’t say anything… I didn’t know what it was, but I did know that it was something strange and my mother taught me that anything that is smoked is not good for your health.”
Hernández indicated that in high school he has seen classmates with electronic cigarettes, who are unaware of the long-term effects. They have told you that they feel comfortable vaping or smoking after seeing celebrities or influencers do it.
“They say: ‘It’s okay to do it because others are doing it’ but they don’t know that this can affect their health,” said the young woman.
An analysis showed that the same chemicals used in sweet-tasting cigarettes and tobacco products are also used in popular candy and beverage products such as LifeSavers, Jolly Ranchers and Kool-Aid, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Nielsen data showed that 47.5% of all cigarettes sold in the first half of 2020 were flavored.
The five most popular cigar brands among 12-17 year olds are Swisher Sweets, Black & Mild, Backwoods, White Owl and Dutch Masters, all of which come in a variety of flavors.
These products often have colorful packaging and are much cheaper than cigars. For example, cigarettes can be priced as low as 3 or 4 for 99 cents, making them even more attractive to price-sensitive youth, says the organization Tobacco-Free Kids, which fights to prevent tobacco use. tobacco in youth.
Where to ask for help
There are different entities willing to help young people to leave addiction. If you live in Orange County, you can get more information and support by calling the hotline at 1-866-NEW-LUNG (1-866-639-5864) or visiting www.1866newlung.com
Other support networks are Tobacco-Free Kids (tobaccofreekids.org) and Kick it California (kickitca.org)