Campaign pushes to ban the sale of tobacco-flavored products to teens in DC

More than 70 community and public health organizations are coming together and calling on D.C. legislators to stop the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the District.

Flavor Hook Kids DC is a campaign aimed at stopping the sale of tobacco products targeted for kids.

A recent National Youth Tobacco Survey found that one in five high school students regularly use e-cigarettes, with 80% of them using flavored products and 97% of youth e-cigarette users having used flavored tobacco products in the past month.

Youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed to what the Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration have called “epidemic” levels.

Carla Williams, associate professor of Medicine and Public Health at Howard University, said most tobacco users will start in their teens.

Williams said kids are enticed because of the way they are packaged and marketed, and especially if it has flavors.

“They hook kids into trying products and because nicotine is an addictive substance they pretty quickly get dependent on nicotine and have the risk of becoming lifelong users,” Williams said.

The campaign also focuses on the need to stop the sale of flavored tobacco to minority communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that smoking increases a person’s risk of a severe illness if they contract the novel coronavirus, and minorities have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“Black and brown communities tend to have higher rates of tobacco related illnesses and it may be a contributing factor to more severe COVID-19 disease,” Williams said.

Through the campaign, Williams says organizations are advocating for legislators to ban all flavored products for sale in D.C.

She said the City Council needs to “include the community in this process to ensure the products are kept out of the hands of young people, and to ensure we don’t hook another generation of children on these products.”

Williams said the legislation should ultimately work for everyone.

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