The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tobacco21.org, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Tobacco Free Alliance of Virginia urge the Governor to take immediate action to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes; and levy a $1.80 comparable tax on all tobacco products including electronic cigarettes.
The youth e-cigarette epidemic is nothing short of a public health emergency that must be urgently confronted. In new preliminary data from the National Tobacco Youth Survey, e-cigarette use more than doubled since 2017. Currently, 27.5 percent of high school students have used e-cigarettes in the last month. Most kids initiate tobacco use with flavored tobacco products, making the removal of flavored e-cigarettes a critical step in addressing the epidemic and preventing tobacco use. The current epidemic of youth e-cigarette use is threatening the health of Virginia children―permanent and immediate solutions to protect them from a lifetime of tobacco and nicotine addiction are needed now. We strongly urge the governor to act.
Virginia is also in desperate need of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to stop the tobacco and e-cigarette industry from targeting our youth. This approach should include strengthening our existing Tobacco 21 legislation to remove purchase, use and possession penalties in the current law and removing the exemption for active duty military; eliminating the sale of all flavored tobacco products including mint and menthol flavors; raising retailer fines to align with national best practices; establishing a tobacco retail licensing system for enforcement, merchant education and infrastructure; and investing in prevention and cessation programs through the Department of Health and Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
The time is now to protect our youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine addiction. Yesterday’s report of the first death associated with vaping from a person in Virginia is heartbreaking. To date, Virginia has not taken the necessary proven steps needed to fight the epidemic of tobacco use.
Virginia youth and families deserve more protections from the tobacco and e-cigarette industry. We look forward to working closely with the Governor and General Assembly on a permanent solution to this public health emergency.
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