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Policies aim to limit youth use of tobacco and nicotine products

June 13, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

San Francisco voters backed a measure to ban flavored nicotine products in June, while in May the Illinois legislature backed a bill to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products form 18 to 21 statewide.

In the Golden State, of 151,481 voters who answered the ballot question "Shall the City ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in San Francisco take effect?" 103,624, or 68.4 percent of voters answered "yes."

The vote came after the city's Board of Supervisors first passed the ban in June 2017. Opponents got enough signatures to qualify the measure as a ballot referendum, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Proponents of the ban called it a way to keep children from becoming addicted to nicotine. Small grocers opposed the measure, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. "put up millions" in campaigning against the measure, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The ban includes the selling of flavored tobacco products, including vaping liquids and menthol cigarettes, according to the New York Times, which also said the policy is "said to be the most restrictive in the country, and health groups predicted it serve as a model for other communities."

Meanwhile, a bill that awaits the governor's signature in Illinois raises the age of those who can legally buy tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21. According to the Chicago Tribune, as of early June Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had not indicated whether he supports the bill.

About two dozen Illinois cities, including Chicago, have already approved policy raises the tobacco purchasing age to 21, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Nationwide, more than 220 cities in 17 states have raised the minimum age for sale of tobacco and nicotine products to 21, according to the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use is often started and established during adolescence, and flavorings in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth. In 2014, 73 percent of high school students and 56 percent of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time. According to a CDC report released in June, the availability of flavored tobacco products "continues to promote and influence tobacco product use among youths."

The ADA supports public policies to prevent tobacco use and urges its members to become fully informed about tobacco use prevention and cessation. The Association also aims to continue to educate and inform membership and the public about the health hazards attributed to the use of both traditional and nontraditional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. (House of Delegates Resolution 78H-2016.)

Tobacco and tobacco cessation are topics covered by the ADA Science Institute on an Oral Health Topics page.

The ADA also offers a continuing education course, Tobacco Policy, Pharmacotherapy, and Dentistry, that includes information about training opportunities for dental health professionals who want to learn more about tobacco cessation pharmacotherapy.