Iowa teens plan rallies at the state capitol and in their own communities today on what’s known as Kick Butts Day.
They’re calling for local leaders and lawmakers to help create the first tobacco-free generation. Gustavo Torrez, director of youth advocacy at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says the national youth smoking rate is at an all-time low of eight-percent.
“In Iowa, we’ve seen some really great success to reduce youth smoking rates to just about 7%, which is below the national average,” Torrez says. “While we’ve been making great progress in Iowa, still, unfortunately, we see high school students who use e-cigarettes at a little above 9%.” The national average for youth e-cigarette use is 11%. Since 2000, smoking rates among high school students nationwide have fallen 71%, from a high of 28% in 2000 to just 8% last year.
Electronic cigarettes are a big worry, Torrez says, as they’re so popular among teens. “More kids now use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes and it’s no accident,” Torrez says. “These products are heavily marketed and sold in sweet flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy. It is really concerning. We know young people should not be using these products. They’re highly addictive and they harm the development of the adolescent brain.”
The latest e-cigarette to catch on with teens is Juul, which looks like a computer flash drive and is sold in flavors like mango and fruit medley. Creating a tobacco-free generation is a realistic goal, he says, and there’s a clear path on how to get there.
“We have proven solutions like raising tobacco taxes, passing strong smoke-free air laws, running tough ad campaigns and raising the tobacco age to 21,” Torrez says. “Elected officials across the country really should look at these and side with kids over big tobacco.” Events are planned nationwide today and in several Iowa communities, including Albia, Coon Rapids, Epworth, Des Moines and Waterloo.