To the editor,
Youth use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is a public health epidemic. In the past year alone, youth tobacco use across the country has seen a dramatic 36% spike.
Tobacco 21 laws have gained traction as lawmakers work to address this major issue, but this promising policy is being manipulated by Big Tobacco to advance its dangerous agenda.
Several states and local ordinances have increased the minimum legal age for the purchase of tobacco products to 21 just this year.
These policies, when designed correctly, have the potential to reduce use of tobacco products among youth, but Big Tobacco has begun using Tobacco 21 legislation to implement weak, industry-favored policies that protect their profits, not our children. These weak laws may seem like a goodwill move from the industry, but in reality, they’re used as a distraction from meaningful tobacco-control efforts.
Tobacco 21 legislation should be a complement to other proven, effective measures to reduce tobacco use, including significant increases to tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws and funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
There’s no time to waste when it comes to addressing the epidemic of youth tobacco use. Tennessee lawmakers must pursue policies that are proven to effectively help reduce tobacco initiation and use, not weak laws designed by the tobacco industry.
We can’t let our kids fall victim to Big Tobacco’s dangerous tricks.
Theresa M. Plonkey • Franklin