The following is a guest post from Natalie Musfer, a volunteer with the youth-led (dis)tasteful tobacco control campaign in Virginia.
I have been a member of Y Street – Virginia’s biggest youth-led movement – for almost 2 years. During that time, I have worked on Y Street’s tobacco prevention campaign, (dis)tasteful, with the goal of creating a world without flavored tobacco.
I strongly believe in this campaign because I see the effect flavored tobacco has on the people around me. I am hoping to raise awareness through this campaign in my community, especially with teens my age because they are the future of my community and also they are the most likely to be influenced by these dangerous tobacco products.
As a part of the campaign, I collected public opinions surveys on how appealing people think flavored tobacco products are, the knowledge people have of flavored tobacco products, and the usage of flavored tobacco among Virginia residents youth. Our findings were very interesting:
- 24% of current youth tobacco users and 25% of adult tobacco users responded that flavored tobacco is probably or definitely safer than regular tobacco.
- Youth who had never even tried tobacco products reported being more likely to try a flavored tobacco product than a non-flavored product.
- 42% of youth tobacco users think that hookah is less harmful than cigarettes.
All of these results show how oblivious people are to the harm caused by flavored tobacco. Many people were shocked at the results of the survey. They did not realize just how appealing the wrapping and flavors of these tobacco products can be. They also didn’t realize how much these things could affect people's choices. Ultimately, we found that Virginians were very supportive of our campaign goal - an overwhelming majority of Virginians (86 percent) think flavored tobacco products are more appealing to youth that non-flavored tobacco products and almost 7 out of 10 respondents (69 percent) support extending the current federal ban on flavored cigarettes to all tobacco products.
Youth activism is very important to me because no one will understand the mind of a kid better than another kid. We motivate and inspire each other to do better or to do worse. I want to see a healthier future for people and I want my peers to help my community create that. I will continue raising awareness about flavored tobacco through the (dis)tasteful campaign. I will keep using what I know about this important issue to communicate to my community why they should support a ban on flavored tobacco products.
Note: Y Street is a program of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. To learn more about (dis)tasteful or to read the full report, visit www.distastefulVA.com.