Kaiser Permanente supports legislation banning flavored tobacco and Governor Newsom’s youth vaping prevention efforts
OAKLAND, Calif. – Taking a strong stand to protect the health and safety of California’s youth, Kaiser Permanente announced it is the first major health care provider to support California Senate Bill 793 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the state.
Under SB 793, flavored tobacco products include menthol cigarettes, flavored chewing tobacco products, and many vaping products.
“Flavors are proven starter products for youth and have no place on the market whatsoever,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Kaiser Permanente. “Kid-friendly flavors mask the poison, entice kids to experiment with tobacco products, and potentially addict them for life.”
The Food and Drug Administration reports that 70% of youth e-cigarette users cited appealing flavors as the primary reason for use; and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 high school students are current e-cigarette users, a rate that has more than doubled in the last 2 years. Even more alarming is the rise in e-cigarette use among middle school students, which has tripled since 2017.
The most current update from the California Department of Public Health shows that 199 vaping-related lung illnesses and 4 deaths have been reported in California since fall 2019. Dozens of young people have been admitted to intensive care units and even required mechanical ventilation.
For many years, physicians and other Kaiser Permanente health care professionals have routinely cautioned patients, especially youth and their parents and guardians, about the harmful effects of nicotine products, which include:
- Risk of life-long addictions and an increased likelihood of becoming a smoker of traditional cigarettes
- Potential for serious and even fatal damage to lungs
- Harm to brain development
- Other unknown long-term risks
“As health care professionals at Kaiser Permanente, we are proud to work for an organization that supports this stand against flavored tobacco products,” said Renee Fogelberg, MD, Kaiser Permanente Northern California adult clinical lead for tobacco cessation, and an obstetrician-gynecologist with The Permanente Medical Group. “The more than 7,000 flavors available on the market today have enticed our youth and fooled others into thinking these items are safe. They effectively created a new generation of smokers, turning back the progress that has been made in the last few decades.”
Kaiser Permanente also offered its continued support to efforts by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to curb the use of vaping products by youth altogether.
“Kaiser Permanente applauds Governor Newsom’s commitment to ban flavored tobacco products in the state by January 2021, his recent actions to make public health alerts and inform consumers, and newly proposed actions to further curb e-cigarette use by minors,” Dr. Choucair said. “We are honored to join the broad coalition of advocates for these efforts, including physicians, advocacy groups, and public health organizations, who are all committed to reversing this troubling and preventable threat to the lives of 9 million California young people.”