While deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 are over 480,000, so are the deaths each year from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, the CDC says. So now it is a race between COVID-19 and tobacco use to get to 500,000 deaths. A race no one wants to win.
E-cigarettes play a key role, especially for young people. As Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Dr. Enid Neptune warn in their commentary “Prioritize Maryland’s health: Remove flavored tobacco products from the market” (Feb. 10), “one in four Maryland high school students uses e-cigarettes, which “causes addiction and can harm brain development, impacting attention, memory, impulse control, mood and learning.” They add this striking finding from a recent Stanford University School of Medicine study: “young people who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected by COVID-19 than those who did not use e-cigarettes.”
The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC tell us that 80% of young e-cigarette users report using flavored products. Mr. Franchot and Dr. Neptune remind us that targeting flavored tobacco products at minorities and kids has a long history, with menthol cigarettes aimed at African Americans since the 1960s.
It’s time to stop the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, in Maryland. Del. Jazz Lewis and Sen. Mary Washington have introduced legislation in the 2021 General Assembly to do just that, in Senate Bill 177 and House Bill 134. We all need to contact our state senators and delegates, and Gov. Larry Hogan, to urge support. Tell them to put the health of the people before the profits of Big Tobacco.
Susan Forhane and Sally Shivnan, Annapolis
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