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More U.S. stores likely sell cigarettes to minors than reported

Researchers determined that more than half of retail stores may be inadvertently, and illegally, selling cigarettes to underage buyers, according to the results published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Federal estimates are based on single visits to stores, the researchers note. The new study was based on six visits per store by teens too young to purchase cigarettes. Sometimes the teenage buyers were turned away, but sometimes a clerk at a store that refused one teen would allow another to purchase cigarettes.

“Policy makers need to understand that the way they are monitoring illegal sales from retail stores is pretty seriously flawed,” said the study’s lead author, Arnold Levinson, an associate professor of community and behavioral health at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.

With the government underestimating illegal sales, it’s unlikely there will be stricter enforcement, Levinson added.

For the new study, Levinson and his colleagues rounded up 17 clean-cut teens between the ages of 15 and 16. The teens were sent into 201 convenience stores, liquor stores, groceries, gas stations and other tobacco retailers in Colorado’s Jefferson County to try to purchase cigarettes. The teens were told it was up to them whether to present an ID if asked for one. Most did. But in many cases the clerks gave the ID only a cursory glance and then handed over the cigarettes.

The researchers determined that 55 percent of retailers sold cigarettes during at least one of the six visits by the underage study volunteers. And 53 out of the 201 stores, or just over 24 percent, sold to the minor volunteers at least twice, while 24 out of 201, or about 12 percent sold to the volunteers three or more times.

Levinson points out that there is a move to raise the age at which tobacco can be purchased nationwide to 21. “That would make a huge difference,” he said. “But it would require consistent firm enforcement, which brings us back to this article. Which shows we’re not doing very well. So if we increase the age we’ve got to increase the monitoring and enforcement.”

We killed the cigarette. What we got in return is mango-flavored nicotine in ‘party mode.’

This year, cryptic signs for something called Juul began appearing in the windows of the 7-Eleven on my block. On vacation in Miami, where smoking is still allowed in many clubs, I noticed a pretty young woman pull a Juul from her purse and lay it on the bar, next to her cocktail. This summer, I saw Juuls at a Fourth of July crab crack and Juuls on the city bus.

Juul, if you haven’t heard, has quietly become the most popular new way to smoke since the old coffin nail itself, claiming more than half of the booming market for electronic cigarettes.

Where early e-cigs tended to mimic cigarettes — and hilariously generated more smoke than a fog machine — the Juul is as far removed from a cigarette as you can get. A sleek little brick that looks like a USB flash drive, it flickers with colored light, puffs discreetly and smells like nothing at all. It is the iPhone of smoking, and the kids are wild for it.

. . .

But Juuling, health professionals say, also carries the dangers of the death stick of the past. It is raising alarms by hooking youth on nicotine at a time when old-fashioned smoking has been hitting a steep decline.

The secret to Juul’s controversial success may be a twist on the age-old story of smoking as an outlet for teenage rebellion. The popularity of Juul seems to grow in tandem with the uproar: Sales of Juul are up more than 700 percent from a year ago, according to Nielsen data.

Schools across the country say they are confiscating fistfuls of the things from their underage charges. Three lawsuits were recently filed against Juul Labs; each argues that users as young as 14 became addicted to Juul, and that the product was marketed as safe.

To Allan M. Brandt, a historian and author of “The Cigarette Century,” Juul is anything but new and different. “It represents the cultural norms and notions of the cigarette, which was very much youth-oriented,” he said. “It was kind of forbidden; it was extremely cool.” . . .
“I think the history of this tells me, don’t trust these industries,” said Brandt, the smoking historian. “Juul can say, ‘We’re not interested in kids; we’re going to fight the use of this in kids.’ But with flavors like mango, and cool cucumber. . . .”

“Cigarette makers have always said they didn’t want kids to smoke, he continued. But bad news about children lighting up on the schoolyard, he said, “was always great news for the tobacco companies.”

I think back on my own generation, which was in its teens when we watched Kurt Cobain on MTV, coolly dragging on a cigarette between strums of his acoustic guitar. And then, for a brief while, I smoked Parliaments on stoops in New York, too, till it became too expensive to continue. We straddled the time when all the fun kids loitered outside smoking, and the moment when, abruptly, the cigarette became social napalm.

Local student supports Tobacco 21

I’m looking forward to my last year of high school, but there’s something going on under the radar that our community needs to realize, and that’s the rising number of my classmates using tobacco products like e-cigarettes.

Many of my peers don’t even know they are inhaling nicotine when they vape – and it’s so easy to become addicted. E-cigarettes like JUUL are marketed to us constantly on social media, and tobacco companies target my age group with fun flavors and coupons to make their products cheaper. As a result, 1 in 5 Minnesota high school students uses e-cigarettes according to the latest Minnesota youth tobacco survey.

This month, the FDA starts requiring labels on e-cigarettes warning they contain nicotine and that nicotine is addictive. I hope these labels will make my peers think twice before using e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. But there is much more we can do in Otter Tail County to stop young people from ever trying tobacco.

One thing we can do is raise the tobacco sale age to 21. Right now, Otter Tail County is considering approving this policy. Tobacco 21 would be a big breakthrough because it would help widen the gap between people who can legally buy tobacco and younger students. Right now, it’s pretty easy for kids who are under 18 to get tobacco products from older friends, so Tobacco 21 would help limit this social access and stop the start of tobacco use.

I hope Otter Tail County commissioners will act for young people like me and support Tobacco 21. Healthier young people would mean a healthier future for all of us.

Back-to-school smoking: Juul Labs e-cigarette sales growth vexes teachers

At Jonathan Law High School, a mysteriously large number of students last year spent copious amounts of time in the bathroom.

Noticing students were disappearing for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, teachers at the Milford, Connecticut school brought the issue to principal Fran Thompson. The bathrooms would become “little tent cities,” Thompson said, with kids bringing blankets and sitting on the sinks.

Why were students congregating in the bathroom? After investigating, Thompson found his answer: Students came to “juul.”

“It’s truly an epidemic,” Thompson said. “And it’s not just specific to my school, but I know that it’s certainly nationwide. It’s rampant.”

Juuling, or using a type of electronic cigarette that looks like the USB sticks used to save electronic documents and other data, is growing in popularity and racking up revenue. It’s also vexing parents and teachers who want to discourage young people from picking up the habit. As the 2018-2019 academic year gets underway, teachers and principals are concerned that the popularity will continue to grow.

Local doctor tests Tobacco 21 enforcement; says 9 stores sold to underage teen

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A local doctor took research into his own hands when asking the Franklin County Board of Health to enforce city ordinance Tobacco 21.

“I don’t like surprising people like this, but I had to get their attention,” said Dr. Rob Crane, a family medicine physician for Ohio State. “I came to the same board meeting and made a presentation, down on one knee begging for their help and they ignored me.”

Tobacco 21 makes the legal age to purchase tobacco products 21 years of age in Bexley, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Grandview and Dublin.

“In those five cities there is no real enforcement because the Franklin County Health Department hasn’t stood up to do it,” said Dr. Crane.

Crane says he’s spent the last 16 months asking the Department to run youth-based stings as a way to see if retailers are following the law.

“They don’t want to be involved in stings. I’ve told them, this is not James Bond,” he said.
So, Crane worked with Christal Welch, a 19-year-old college student to see how many stores would sell to her.

Of the 18 stores they went to in the central Ohio area, nine sold to her overlooking her age or not checking ID.

“I was shocked,” Welch said. “Half the time they would ask ‘are you old enough?’, and I would say yes, but they didn’t ask for my ID. Other times, they would look at my ID that says I’ll be 21 in 2019, and they still sold it to me.”

Tuesday, Welch and Dr. Crane presented their findings to the Franklin County Board of Health.

“I think his goal is also our goal,” said Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola. “For us right now we don’t have a direct role in the enforcement procedures for most of the cities that have passed Tobacco 21 in our jurisdiction. But, certainly, we are looking to work with more local communities as they consider raising the age from 18-21.”

Mazzola says the department has spent time researching enforcement tactics to ensure they make an informed decision.

“What we’ve been doing is looking at around the state of Ohio, looking around the nation really for best practices and information about the effectiveness for local health departments to do active enforcement for tobacco 21 ordinances and so that takes time,” said Mazzola.

Mazzola says the commission will make a formal recommendation to the Franklin County Board of Health over the next couple months.