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Lynn working to ban vaping among kids and teens

Photo by the Associated Press

Lynn may take steps to ban “vaping” among kids, following the lead of Somerville, which became the first city in the state to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes and menthol cigarettes in stores that are open to youths, the Boston Globe reported.

Somerville’s Board of Health voted on the ban in December, which begins April 1. Lynn Public Health Director Michele Desmarais said she is in full agreement with their decision.

“Vaping is very prevalent in middle-to-high school-aged kids,” she said. “They think it is the cool thing to do. They don’t realize that what’s in the product is nicotine, which is dangerous to their health.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017, 3.6 million middle and high school students were using tobacco products, with 2.1 million favoring e-cigarettes. Desmarais said, while she agrees the ban should exist in the city, it is something that needs to be further explored with her board at their next meeting in early February.

“I have seen a high number of youth smoking and vaping in our city,” said School Committee member Michael Satterwhite. “Our youth must realize vaping is addictive and risky, just like old-fashioned cigarettes. I would not be opposed to similar limits on e-cigarettes in the city and believe that a limit would help us educate our students with the seriousness of vaping.”

Joyce Redford, director of the North Shore/Cape Ann Tobacco Alcohol Policy Program, said vaping is “becoming an epidemic” in Lynn and its surrounding areas. She noted that JUUL pods, one of the more popular e-cigarette products, has an extremely high concentration of nicotine, with one pod the equivalent of an entire pack of conventional cigarettes.

While Lynn raised the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21 in 2017, it is at the beginning stages of pushing back against the youth’s vaping habits, she said.

The city’s first step would be issuing a policy that restricts flavored “other tobacco products” (OTP) from being sold in the retail environment and moves them into adult-only establishments, following suit of communities such as Beverly, Danvers, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem, and Saugus, said Redford.

Somerville’s newest policy is so “cutting edge” because, unlike the federal government, it considers menthol and mint as flavors, she said. Next month, if the Lynn board plans on moving forward with a discussion around restrictions of flavored OTP, they would have to hold a public meeting before making any sort of decision, said Redford.

Given she has no idea how the board will react and that there are 140 tobacco retailers in Lynn, Redford said a “best case scenario” of any new restrictions in the city would be at least late summer or early fall of this year.

“It’s not that it’s worse than tobacco, we don’t know the long term consequences because they haven’t been out there for a long time,” said Redford. “Because these things are flavored and salt-based, it takes away the harshness of it, which also means it absorbs into the body differently, making it easier for young people to use it and tolerate it. It’s alarming because so many people don’t know that.”

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