As a pediatrician at a busy practice in the Portland area, I am troubled by the growing epidemic of flavored tobacco use among our youth. The health and wellness of children is my calling. Knowing the tobacco industry is targeting children with flavors like strawberry lemonade, bubble gum and cotton candy frustrates and saddens me. These flavors, including menthol cigarettes, are not designed for adults; they are a deliberate ploy to lure in our youth. Ninety-five percent of adult smokers started using tobacco before the age of 21, and half of youth who have ever tried smoking started with menthol cigarettes. This highlights the industry’s predatory tactics to hook kids early and create lifelong customers – ignoring the fact that this comes at the cost of the quality and length of their lives.

The consequences of tobacco use are dire. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing disease and disability. Evidence is growing that e-cigarettes can also harm lung health. The U.S. surgeon general has warned that nicotine exposure during adolescence and young adulthood can lead to addiction and long-term harm to brain development.

The rise in the popularity of these products is a ticking time bomb that threatens to rob our children of their health and create a future of addiction. Maine can end the sale of flavored tobacco products through a vote in our state Legislature. I hope our elected officials hear this call loud and clear and stand up for our kids by voting in favor of L.D. 1215.

Dr. Brian Youth, MD
vice president, Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

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