Dear North Carolina parents,
Your kids are under attack.
E-cigarette (“vape pen”) companies are reaching more of your children than ever before. Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stunningly reported that one in every five of your high school students is smoking e-cigs. This has become an epidemic.
These e-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine, harm your kids’ developing brains and evade your attention through their small size and quickly disappearing vapor. These devices are also quadrupling your adolescents’ chances of smoking conventional cigarettes. Despite these facts, one of the most frightening realities is that North Carolina is contributing zero funds to combat this issue. Thus, as North Carolinians, the state needs to rally together to pass legislation that can combat adolescent e-cigarette use. Studied, effective prevention campaigns do exist; we just have to utilize them.
Thankfully, I made it through high school without ever smoking and am now a college student at UNC Chapel Hill. In college, I get to live with thousands of students, seeing the best and worst sides of my generation. As such, I get to witness how rampant this addiction truly is among young people, and it is startling. Every day, I watch my peers struggle with the e-cigarette addictions they developed in high school, with most of their parents not even realizing. While some of the students do not fully understand the consequences of smoking e-cigarettes, others simply cannot escape. At times, it seems as if my entire generation is slowly becoming addicted to nicotine while older generations neglect the issue. Sadly, I am learning that this is not just my perception, but North Carolina’s legislative reality.
I’m sure that the state legislators do not want to see their youngest generations develop into addicts. Yet, with 22.7 percent of North Carolina’s high school students smoking e-cigarettes as of 2017, the North Carolina government still does not contribute any tax dollars to e-cig prevention programs. However, I can understand why some state legislators fail to act. At first, you build up this “smoker” persona and doubt these students are smoking e-cigs with all of the previous campaigns against conventional cigarette use, but you must come to realize that this addiction is widespread, unique to our technological time and can trap those you least suspect. As such, this new addiction requires new prevention efforts.
As parents, I am sure this is frightening to think about. Although, there is something you can do, but you will have to go beyond your home. Simply, you must unite as parents. With this unification, you can advocate for your state to fund tobacco prevention programs that target e-cigarette use among all of North Carolina’s youth. Your first step can be urging your state representatives to pass N.C. House Bill 276. This bill creates a funded state program that can tackle this focused issue. Although, currently, the bill is stalled in committee. We can’t let this happen. Parents must speak for their children and create change through their unified voice.
As parents and as advocates, you can create a future where students will not have to be met with peers struggling with nicotine addictions. You can stop this epidemic from continuing to spiral out of control. You can safeguard your child’s future, but you have to start acting now. The parents of North Carolina have to rally together as a community and demand action from their state. As parents, you must do this for your children and my generation.
If not, who will?
— Brady Hanshaw