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Addressing the epidemic of youth tobacco use

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The FDA recently stated that the explosion of youth e-cigarette use “presents a clear and present danger” to the health of our nation’s youth. E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco. E-cigarettes can also contain other harmful ingredients. Nicotine is proven to alter brain development and stunt the growth of the prefrontal cortex – impairing youth’s self-control, attention span, learning, and ability to weigh consequences. Nicotine itself also has a number of negative physical health impacts.

As of 2019, one in every 6 Utah high school students actively uses e-cigarettes. The American Heart Association supports tobacco-related legislation/ordinances aimed at eliminating youth usage and curbing adult use:

  • Impose a tax on e-cigarettes to ensure they are treated like all other tobacco products.
  • Ensure that tax revenues from current and proposed tobacco taxes are directed to state and local tobacco prevention and cessation programs. This allows local communities to further their efforts to educate kids on the dangers of nicotine and scale back our skyrocketing youth usage rates.
  • Expedite the timeline of Tobacco to 21 legislation passed in 2019 to be enacted in 2020. 95% of all adult tobacco users started before the age of 21.
  • Remove current tobacco use exemptions in state code to ensure the health of all citizens is prioritized.
  • Remove preemption language in state code that restricts the ability for local communities to find their own solutions to the youth vaping epidemic.
  • Eliminate entirely or restrict1 the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Flavors are a huge contributor to the youth vaping epidemic (slurpee, gummy bear, captain crunch, etc.). They are also disproportionately used by minorities (menthol).

Safe Routes to Schools Funding

Safe Routes to Schools provide cities with funding needed to improve the infrastructure in neighborhoods around schools providing children a safe, accessible route to take to and from school. Up to 2/3 of applications for funds are denied each year for a lack of funding. Legislation passed last year put the Safe Routes to School program in State Code to ensure its longevity. The American Heart Association supports additional state and local appropriations for the program. This program impacts the health, safety, and performance of our children and the air quality of our communities.

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