We are living in an age where e-cigarette companies look to create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts, where addiction is treated as a crime, and where public policy aiming to prevent youth addictions has failed America’s children.
Not only are my peers suffering from nicotine addiction at the hands of e-cigarette companies, like JUUL and Altria, but the Connecticut General Assembly has done nothing to stop it. The e-cigarette industry has been gifted more than five years to prey on America’s youth, and the result is devastating.
According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco survey, 3.6 million young Americans currently use e-cigarette products. The companies producing these e-cigarettes employ many disgusting tactics in an attempt to create a new generation of nicotine addicts, including paying off political leaders and directly targeting advertisements toward teens. It is very reminiscent of how cigarette companies of old got our parents and grandparents addicted to nicotine. The saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” rings true still to this day. E-cigarette companies are using strategies deployed by past regimes to addict a whole new generation to nicotine: my generation.
Arguably more insidious than targeting advertisements at children is paying off our country’s political leaders. This marriage between the government and companies like JUUL and Altria only further emphasizes the lengths that e-cigarette companies will go to addict our peers and loved ones to a deadly habit. Overall, JUUL and Altria have given close to 1 million dollars to Democrats and Republicans alike in the form of campaign contributions.
Let that sink in. Our nation’s leaders are happily accepting money from murderers and manipulators—people targeting children. America’s youth have paid the price for this incompetence.
E-cigarette companies target people of all ages, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds. A close friend of mine was a straight A student in high school before he started using e-cigarettes. Before long, he began to skip school and when he was in attendance, he acted very differently. He was irritable, pale, sweating, and distant from everyone. He even went to the point where he would sneak in an e-cigarette to use in class. My friend described it as a form of withdrawal. He couldn’t wait to take the next hit and wanted to live the life portrayed in JUUL’s e-cigarette advertisements. The e-cigarette industry has led to the demise of many of my close friends and will continue to do so until it is justly tried for its actions.
The fact of the matter is, teens are getting sicker while e-cigarette companies are getting richer. I have witnessed, first hand, the impact that deceitful marketing tactics have had on my peers. In response to these assaults by the e-cigarette industry, the Connecticut General Assembly must introduce legislation which reduces the nicotine content of e-cigarettes, making it so that the newest generation of life-long nicotine addicts never comes to fruition. Teens have been suffering on the front line of this epidemic while the state government has been lying in its false reality of ignorant bliss. It is time for them to wake up.
I urge you to speak with your Connecticut General Assembly representatives about wanting to do something about such a widespread issue in youth e-cigarette use. Legislative action is necessary to quench the fires of a rekindled nicotine epidemic, both in Connecticut and abroad.
Juan Borrego lives in New Haven.