To the Editor:
Thank you for your compelling article, “Growing Up in Smoke: The pluming popularity of e-cigarettes” featured in the Feb. 20 issue.
Smoking rates have declined in recent years among young people. However, the amped up advertising of products such as Juul as a smoking cessation device is actually having the opposite effect. Many young people who have never smoked are turning to Juul, a product that in the company’s own advertising admits that the product contains nicotine that can be addictive.
Tobacco use in Missouri contributes to an estimated 11,000 deaths each year, which includes over 31.3 percent of cancer deaths. In addition, tobacco use increases the risk of many other health conditions such as heart attack, stroke, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight and SIDS.
Tobacco use also is a huge financial burden to Missouri taxpayers with $3.03 billion in annual health care costs and $644.3 million in Medicaid costs attributed to smoking.
Missouri ranks 48th in the nation for funding programs to prevent young people from using tobacco products and helping tobacco users quit. In 2019, Missouri is expected to receive $258.9 million in revenue from tobacco settlement funds and tobacco taxes. The Center for Disease Control [CDC] recommends Missouri spend $72.9 million on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Missouri spends a mere, $48,000 on such programs and redirects the remaining funds to other unrelated programs in the state. Meanwhile, the tobacco companies spend $364.9 million to market their harmful products in Missouri each year.
St. Charles County residents were successful in securing the required number of signatures on a ballot imitative to place a complete smoking ban on the November 2018 ballot. Unfortunately, the ballot language was successfully challenged in court. As a result, St. Charles County residents were only permitted to vote on a watered-down smoking ban proposal initiated by the County Council. The council’s smoking ban, which passed, is riddled with exemptions, including one that exempts “use of an electronic smoking device.”
It is time for St. Charles County to prioritize the health of our residents. Our most vulnerable include our children who are being bombarded with print and digital ads enticing them to Juul or vape. It is time for Missouri to use the resources provided by the 1998 Tobacco Settlement as promised, for programs designed for prevention and cessation of tobacco products.
Lorna Frahm, board member
Tobacco Free Missouri