Picture the check-out lane at a convenience store. What do you see? Probably candy, snacks, but also tobacco. It’s normal for tobacco products to be in places that influence teenagers, which is something we should talk about.
As a teenager actively involved in YAC, a group of teens in Fulton County that strives to make a positive difference in our community, I participated in several tobacco audits, and I want to share what we learned.
During tobacco store audits, youth go into stores that sell tobacco and check if they follow regulations. Legally, the store must have a sign that they don’t sell to underage people.
We also check for products that could easily be mistaken for kid-friendly things. Even as a young adult, I mistook some for candy.
Tobacco companies want this to happen, so next to candy is like prime real estate. It was shocking how much of the check-out stations were ridden with tobacco. All the advertisements drowned out minimum age signage.
Fulton County 2023 Compliance Check data focuses on whether stores sell to underage youth. In Ohio, 21 is the minimum age to buy tobacco products. In the spring of 2023 19% of Fulton County stores (7/36) sold to the underage purchaser.
For clarification, the underage purchaser cannot do anything to make themselves appear older. Of the seven that sold, five of them examined their ID and two of them used verification equipment.
All of the stores that sold had proper signage about the age requirement. The underage purchaser used their own ID (with their birthday and rotated because they’re under 21).
The person selling should have known that it was illegal, but five were still sold. Two stores sold without looking at an ID! Also, only two out of all the 36 stores tested asked their age.
Some ask if teens even use tobacco, but they do! Many teens replaced cigarettes with vapes though. In the US, 3.6 million middle to high school students vape. About 16% of Fulton County youth vape, so since approximately 3,959 youth live in Fulton County, about 633 kids here vape.
Nicotine is found in cigarettes and vapes. This addiction increases their risk of mental illness, drug use, and introduces metals to their lungs. This is very dangerous as it can hurt their physical and mental health.
Furthermore, of those that reported they vape, 22% reported starting at 12 years old or younger. These kids are putting their lives in danger. Oftentimes, teens think it relieves stress, which is actually false.
Studies show it worsens feelings of anxiety and depression because of the cycle of addiction.
So, instead of expecting teens to know everything when faced with life-altering decisions like these, support them. Don’t punish your teens, they don’t always know everything. If your business sells tobacco, don’t sell to underage kids.
If you have kids, talk to them about the dangers of vaping. Raise awareness about how tobacco can hurt teenagers, their futures depend on it.
The post LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Protecting Kids From Tobacco first appeared on The Village Reporter.
Source: The Village Reporter