Earlier this month, numerous Idaho legislators attended an informational session put on by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network with Stanford Professor Bonnie Halpern-Felsher. She is an expert in the vaping phenomenon and traveled all the way to Idaho to give us the most recent updates and research on the issue. What we learned was shocking.

Vaping and e-cigarette companies are targeting our most vulnerable audience: Idaho’s children. These companies rely on social media campaigns that display vaping as stylish and cool to lure in a young audience. Thousands of vaping flavors like cotton candy, buttered popcorn, birthday cake batter and blue raspberry are used to entice young kids into trying nicotine for the first time. In fact, there are more than 15,500 nicotine flavors used to target youth. Money isn’t spent on traditional media outlets but rather millions on hiring influencers on social media platforms that are popular among our youth. Sleek packaging in bright colors hides the vaping juice so that it can be put in your pocket like a fancy pen. Most of these tobacco products are significantly cheaper than a pack of cigarettes and are easily accessible through one of thousands of stores specifically designed to sell e-cigarettes.

All this marketing has increased high school students’ use of e-cigarettes by 78 percent (that’s 1 in 5 high school students currently using e-cigarettes). Even more concerning, it has increased middle school students’ use by more than 48 percent (to 1 in 20 students). Clearly, marketing toward young people is profitable for the vaping industry. Idaho’s youth are now doing things like sneaking into the bathroom during classes to vape because it has become such a big part of their daily lives.

All of that advertising is used to hide the terrifying truth behind vaping and e-cigarettes. This powerful drug is marketed as the most trendy thing that a kid can do, instead of a deadly drug that can cause life-threatening impacts. Many of these vapes are using salt-based nicotine that delivers, at the very least, two packs of cigarettes’ worth of nicotine! Salt-based nicotine feels less harsh on the throat so it is easier to use much more, which highly increases the chances of addiction.

What impact does all that nicotine have on Idaho’s children? When you are using nicotine, especially in such high quantities, it impacts your whole body. It changes and rewires parts of the brain. You have trouble breathing because your lungs are becoming damaged. Your heart will beat faster because your body is stuck in fight-or-flight mode. In the long term, you run a higher risk of life-threatening illnesses like respiratory failure and cancer.

Our youth are under attack by the vaping industry and our laws need to be updated to reflect the current threat we are facing. Idahoans are being targeted with misinformation and enticing marketing to use products that are extremely damaging to their immediate and long-term health. After hearing some of the most recent research on vaping, it is clear that we must take immediate action to protect Idaho’s youth.


Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, represents District 18 in the Legislature.

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