By Joey Boswell
Coordinator, Health Systems for a Tobacco Free North Country
Despite positive progress in recent years, youth tobacco use remains a significant public health risk.
In March, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Even as tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S., companies continue to aggressively market products to teens — a problem made worse by the prevalence of flavored e-cigarettes.
Nationwide, approximately 2.55 million middle and high school students reported that they used tobacco products during the first half of 2021 — a figure made more alarming considering many schools were still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those 2.55 millions kids, over 2 million used e-cigarettes.
In his statement on the survey, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers rightly noted that this figure underscores why the FDA must move to eliminate flavored products from the market: “In addition to driving down overall youth tobacco use, the elimination of flavored tobacco products will help to address the disparities in tobacco use identified in the NYTS, including higher rates of tobacco use among LGBT youth and higher rates of combustible tobacco use, specifically cigar use, among Black youth. These groups have been targeted by the tobacco industry with marketing for flavored products, including menthol cigarettes.”
The silver lining in the survey is the continued decline in cigarette smoking among youth — only 1.9 percent of respondents reported that they smoke. This historic low in the youth smoking rate means we can make progress in combating e-cigarette use.
The Heart Network’s Health Systems for a Tobacco Free North Country program partners with health care providers, behavioral health organizations and public health agencies to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in our communities. To learn more, visit heartnetwork.org. For resources to help you quit, check out New York State Smokers’ Quitline at nysmokefree.com or call 1-866-NY-QUITS.