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Helen Bagshaw: Join forces in reversing youth tobacco epidemic

Helen Bagshaw: Join forces in reversing youth tobacco epidemic

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Join forces in reversing youth tobacco epidemic

As a Winona resident and public health advocate, I am extremely concerned about the ongoing youth tobacco crisis.

Youth vaping remains at epidemic levels. Today, about one in five Minnesota high-schoolers and young adults regularly vape e-cigarettes, and there is worrisome evidence that e-cigarette use is creating strong nicotine addictions among young people.

As a critical care nurse, and working in community prevention, I have experienced firsthand the harm that tobacco products inflict upon the health of our communities.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the US.

Thankfully, state leaders like Rep. Gene Pelowski and Sen. Jeremy Miller are making efforts to boost funding for tobacco prevention initiatives to help us combat addiction. Miller’s proposal to invest additional resources in tobacco prevention would be a huge win for our state, and I urge other lawmakers to add their support.

Things are changing as it was announced on Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will propose a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars.

We don’t agree on everything in Minnesota, but I think we can share the goal of building a generation free from tobacco addiction and eliminating smoking-related health disparities. Too many of us have lost loved ones to tobacco. The last thing we want is the tobacco industry to use our kids as replacement users.

Recently a local tobacco retailer wrote a letter titled: “Legislature off base in pursuing tobacco measures” – and I couldn’t disagree more with his premise. Investing in tobacco prevention is an important step in our comprehensive efforts to reduce tobacco’s harm, especially among our kids. Raising tobacco prices and ending the sale of flavored products are two other important policies that we should continue to pursue. More than 80% of youth start with a flavored product, and youth are far more responsive to price increases than adults.

I ask that the Winona community work together to reverse the youth tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all Minnesotans.

Helen Bagshaw



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