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Letter: 1 in 3 students in DL vaping --EMDASH-- Becker County needs tougher tobacco ordinances

The FDA now requires labels on e-cigarettes to warn that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. It's about time! But this step forward is only the beginning of what we can do to help prevent tobacco addiction, especially among young people in our communities. I know firsthand how addictive tobacco is and I would never want my children, or anyone else's children, to start using these products.

Here in Becker County and in neighboring communities, the popularity of e-cigarettes among high school students is climbing at an alarming rate. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found a nearly 50 percent increase in use since 2014. In our survey last year in a local school, rates of tobacco use in our youth showed close to 1 in 3 students using.

Make no mistake — tobacco companies know what they are doing. They target kids because they know that 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started before age 21. It's part of their business plan to get them hooked young, or else it's unlikely that they will start when they are older. Did you know tobacco actually is the highest cause of premature death over obesity, drugs, alcohol and suicide? It's true.

It is hard to quit, and approximately 80 percent of people who don't quit as adults have highly correlated rates of mental health or poverty issues. We are working to address the issues with stress, suicide and putting massive money into trying to help stop addiction after the fact. Why not help prevent it instead???

We have a choice — so let's exercise that right and try to prevent them from using in the first place. Thankfully, Becker County is considering policy changes that would help prevent tobacco use. The policy change basically includes adding e-cigarettes to our Clean Indoor Air Act (meaning you won't be able to vape where you can't smoke) and exempts tobacco sampling, which are two important steps Becker County can take.

I urge Becker County commissioners to strengthen our tobacco ordinances to protect kids and save lives. You can help- reach out to your county commissioners to tell them that you support clean indoor air.

Not sure how to find out who your commissioner is? Go to this website to email or call them:

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young people never start, they will never suffer the deadly consequences. Prevention is the best way to foster a culture of community health.

Karen Pifher, Becker County Energize