MIRROR GUEST COLUMN BY SCOTT NOONAN | MAUMEE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER — Our first priority should always be our children.
Something that is endangering the future well-being of the young people in our community is the rise in youth vaping, or illegal, disposable e-cigarette usage. It must be addressed now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a study this November that shows that kids are getting their hands on tobacco products at a younger age and at a higher rate. The study shows that in 2023, nearly 7 percent of middle school students – that’s students in grades 6-8 – said they had used tobacco products in a 30-day period, which is an increase from 4.5 percent in 2022. That is an alarming statistic and should be tackled immediately.
The good news is that the number of high school students who have tried tobacco products in the same time period dropped from 16.5 percent to 12.6 percent over the course of a year. But that’s still too high, and unsurprisingly, e-cigarettes continue to be the most used tobacco product by teens and preteens for the 10th year in a row.
There is a direct correlation between the “yummy” vape flavors and youth smoking. These flavors and brandings – including Tyson Vape Lush Lime, Hulk Hogan Hulkmania Cotton Candy and Death Row by Snoop Dogg Blue Razz – are clearly designed to attract kids. And all of these products are illegal. The CDC and FDA found in their recent study that nearly 90 percent of current child e-cigarette users say they used flavored products – fruit and candy being the most common flavors. In fact, the flavors are a main reason young users picked up vapes in the first place.
I am proud that Maumee City Council has made efforts to curb this epidemic by passing a resolution in late August that temporarily stopped the development of smoke shops for two years. On Conant Street, which is one of the main streets in the city of Maumee, there are two vape stores and a cigar shop. The temporary moratorium, in my opinion, protects our children and the community overall.
In 2020, the FDA took action as well by banning pod-based e-cigarettes, but did not apply restrictions to disposable e-cigarettes, leaving a dangerous loophole that is being exploited. Most of these illegal, disposable e-cigarettes fueling the surge in youth vaping are manufactured in China. Chinese manufactured Elf Bar was the most reported brand in the recent CDC study. Overall, nearly 6,000 unique disposable products have flooded the market, each offering sweet, candy-like flavors. This is a 1,500-percent increase since early 2020, which is a staggering statistic.
Maumee and cities like ours across Ohio and our country can’t address this problem alone. We need the FDA to step up, redouble its efforts, crack down on the regulations it already has in place, and close the destructive loophole. They must do their part to remove these flavored, illegal products from store shelves – not only is it the law, but it is for the safety and future of our children.