Neodesha High School student Emily Tomlinson praised peers assembled at the Capitol wearing T-shirts demanding ruination of the tobacco industry.
She kicked off a rally of 200 students from across Kansas by challenging powerful business interests that bank on convincing a new generation of consumers that vaping of nicotine was more acceptable than smoking old-fashioned cigarettes. Marketing driven by social media places Kansas’ underage people in the crosshairs, she said.
“We all know that big tobacco is targeting us as youth,” she said. “Every single one of you wearing a white shirt saying ’Take Down Tobacco,’ you’re here to do something important.”
The students fanned out at the Statehouse to meet with House and Senate members from their communities or regions. Many are part of local youth-led Resist Tobacco organizations. In addition to a baseline objection to tobacco use, these students focused on the surge in use of electronic cigarettes by students from elementary school on up.
Slick marketing aimed at children suggests e-cigarettes or vaping devices can be relied upon by people attempting to avoid health consequences of smoking.
Elijah Redington, of Newton, cynically contemplated how that deal might be phrased.
“I’ll stop smoking cigarettes when the nicotine starts tasting like blue raspberry?” he said.
Holton High School student Olivia Summers decried the avalanche of dessert flavors and easily concealed dispensers for vaping. The twist on candy is kid-friendly and feeds into use of clever vaping devices that looks like a USB drive, key chain, credit card, phone case, smart watch, writing pen or asthma inhaler.
“There is no reason for someone old enough to purchase tobacco products that are disguised. Why would they have to?” Summers said.
Jordan Feuerborn, of the American Cancer Society’s political advocacy arm, Cancer Action Network, said a bill introduced in the House to raising the age from 18 to 21 for the purchase and possession of cigarettes had been weakened by amendments. She has opposed to House Bill 2563 as revised by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
“We know our lawmakers are well-intentioned and they want to protect Kansas kids, but there are some problems with this bill,” Feuerborn said.
She said the House bill wouldn’t restrict the sale of a flavored vaping products and didn’t allocate funding to deter retail sales to underage people.