Denver, CO

Denver doctor calls for flavored tobacco ban

David Heitz

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Denver cardiologist Dr. Ray Estacio has asked the city to ban flavored tobacco.

Estacio raised the topic during Monday’s City Council meeting. His impassioned plea came the same day a study appeared about electronic cigarettes and young people in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study showed that while vaping nicotine is down among adolescents overall, the use of flavorings is up. “These results suggest that although current e-cigarette use decreased during 2019 to 2020, overall prevalence, frequent use, and flavored e-cigarette use remained high,” according to the research. “Continued actions are warranted to prevent and reduce e-cigarette use among US youth.”

Estacio, who serves as president of the Denver chapter of the American Heart Association, acted Monday during the city council meeting. He said electronic cigarette use in Denver has reached “epidemic levels” among young people. One in five high school students use electronic cigarettes, he said. “We are facing an uphill battle when it comes to curbing this epidemic.”

The national study appearing in JAMA Monday was conducted by Teresa W. Wang, Andrea S. Gentzke and Linda Neff, all scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This survey study of 14,531 students found that among the 19.6 percent of high school students and 4.7 percent of middle school students who currently used e-cigarettes in 2020, 38.9 percent of high school users and 20 percent of middle school users self-reported use on 20 to 30 days during the past 30 days, and most reported flavored e-cigarette use,” according to the findings.

He said when young cigar smokers recently were polled about why they like a stogie, they replied, “I smoke cigars because they come in flavors I like.”

Favorite brand, flavors

Estacio said the tobacco industry for years has pushed menthol cigarettes on young people, people of color and the LGBT community. These dangerous tobacco products have further exacerbated health disparities among these marginalized groups.

E-cigarette use, or vaping, has revolutionized the notion of sneaking a cigarette. The stealthy devices don’t produce a discernible odor. Junior can hide his tobacco addiction from mom and dad much easier these days than in the past.

The study also revealed:

· “Among current users, JUUL was the most commonly reported usual brand.”

· “Among current users, the most common source of obtaining e-cigarettes was from a friend.”

· “Among current users, 84.7 percent of high school students and 73.9 percent of middle school students reported flavored e-cigarette use. “

· “Fruit-flavored e-cigarettes were the most commonly reported flavor among current exclusive e-cigarette users of prefilled pods or cartridges, disposable e-cigarettes, and tank-based devices, followed by mint-flavored e-cigarettes.”

Cardiologist asks council to show leadership

Estacio ended his five-minute speech to the council on Monday by asking it to show leadership on the teen vaping epidemic. He said Denver was a leader in raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

He said the tobacco industry “has used flavors to lure young people for decades into this deadly addiction.”

There are more than 15,000 flavors of vape juice, Estacio said, including Cotton Candy, Mango, Strawberry and Chocolate Brownie. He said the addictive juice comes in “packaging that mimics their candy counterparts.

“But underneath that cool packaging lies an addictive, deadly substance.”

Although he did not state who conducted the study, Estacio said research shows that 65 percent of Denverites support ending the sale of tobacco-flavored products.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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