Vicki Barron: Tobacco dangerous

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— Did you know that tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in our country, killing more people than alcohol use, illegal drug use, AIDS, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined? While it is true that cigarette smoking rates have declined in our country, other forms of tobacco are gaining popularity, particularly among youths. This is a problem.

Tobacco companies realize that smoking is not as widely accepted as it was in the past, so they’ve enhanced their product line with new smokeless products. There are the well-known smokeless tobacco products you may be familiar with — dip, chew and snuff. But are you familiar with Snus (rhymes with goose), orbs or strips?

Additional non-cigarette tobacco products include hookah, cigars, cigarillos, bidis and even e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes). All of theses products contain nicotine, are addictive and are not a safe alternative to smoking, according to the FDA.

Although it is illegal to purchase tobacco products if you are younger than 18, young people are still starting to use tobacco. In fact, 31 percent of Steamboat Springs High School male students reported using smokeless tobacco during the 30 days prior to the 2010 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

Evidence proves that limiting access to tobacco can prevent people from ever using it. And if someone never starts using, they can prevent myriad health problems and addiction related to tobacco.

So what should be done?

Here’s the solution: The State Tobacco Education and Prevention Program has shifted its focus to not only include education but also public policy work to protect our community, particularly our youths, from the harmful effects of tobacco. The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition are leading an initiative for the city of Steamboat Springs to adopt a policy that will require retailers of non-cigarette tobacco products to pay an annual licensing fee to make sure that existing laws regarding non-cigarette tobacco sales to minors are enforced on a local level.

Consider the impact of limiting access: Fewer kids start using tobacco equals a healthier community, equals better quality of life, equals lower health care costs. Support non-cigarette tobacco retailer licensing. It’s good for youths and good for Steamboat.

Vicki Barron, RN, AE-C

Community health educator, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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