Editor:

Thirteen.

A baker’s dozen, an unlucky number, a scary movie title, the first year of being a “teenager.”

It is also the average age of a new smoker in New York State. Each year in New York State, 4,900 youth become new daily smokers. Ultimately, 280,000 youth under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking.

Yes, New York State has recently made great advances in tobacco control legislation. These news laws prohibit tobacco retailers from accepting coupons for tobacco and vape products, selling flavored vape products, and selling tobacco products at pharmacies. But there is still more work to be done to protect our youth from Big Tobacco.

It is important our community members are educated on the dangerous effects of menthol cigarettes specifically. Menthol improves the taste and reduces the harshness of tobacco products, making them more appealing and easier for young people to use. It has been used for decades to narrowly target our minority populations, leaving them with the unfair burden of tobacco related diseases. Flavors, such as menthol, also create the impression that these products are less harmful than they really are.

The youth have the right to be free from the grips of the tobacco industry. They have the power to be the first tobacco free generation, and it should be our responsibility to help them advocate for change and their health.

Sincerely,

Hannah Weltzer, CHES

Hannah Weltzer is coordinator for health promotions with the American Lung Association.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1