I hope the members of the Falmouth Town Council saw the recent Portland Press Herald editorial by Jennifer Gulko, principal of Freeport High School, regarding flavored tobacco products and youth addiction. It’s a very forceful piece.

She quotes the statistic that nearly 34% of high school students in Maine have used e-cigarettes. And as I commented at the council’s public hearing the other night, the CDC and FDA data is that nationwide 80+% of youth who smoke started with flavored tobacco products, and some 70% of middle schoolers and over 80% of high schoolers who’ve used tobacco within the past 30 days of any year all used flavored tobacco products. That data is obviously extremely worrisome.

The issue of nicotine addiction is something that kids just don’t understand. Research has shown that if the tobacco’s flavor is really enjoyable, kids will often smoke those products repeatedly throughout the day, which compounds their nicotine intake way beyond what they think they’re getting. Ergo the addiction potential.

Some 20 years ago the U.S. Surgeon General commented that nicotine can be more addictive than heroin. That’s a very sobering comment if there ever was one.

I understand why those who sell tobacco and the tobacco industry itself are so adverse to limiting access to these products. What I worry about is that theirs is the same attitude that will more than likely prevent us from ever seriously tackling climate change: what’s important is today’s personal and commercial financial gain, not the health of the public at large, today or ever.

Remember what Police Chief Kilbride said at the local hearing: “Yes, our youth can get ahold of these flavored tobacco products elsewhere, but to ban them in our town would mean that we actually care.”

Charles de Sieyes, M.D.
School physician for the Falmouth, Cumberland and Bonny Eagle districts and for Baxter Academy

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