I am a Pediatrician in Oregon and I recently submitted an op-ed to my local newspaper explaining why I am voting YES on Measure 108 this November. I hope you will consider voting YES in November as well.
It is time to raise the price of tobacco in Oregon to save our youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.
Here are three patients I saw recently in my pediatric clinic:
- An 8th grader is sullen and irritable. He drops out of his favorite sport. He has a new friend group. His grades are slipping. His parents tell me they found a box of used vape pods in his bedroom. He is addicted to nicotine. His parents don’t know what to do.
- A 16-year-old admits to vaping with her friends nearly every day - in the school bathroom, at the park, in their cars. She never buys her own. She always bums a hit off of her friends. She claims she is not addicted. “Could you quit today?” I ask. “No,” she says. “That would be too hard.”
- A 19-year-old vapes half of a Juul pod each day. He buys them from a coworker. He sometimes gets chest pains and is afraid of dying of that vaping illness he has heard about in the news. He has tried to quit four times since he started smoking at age 15. He wants my help to try again, hoping that this time it sticks.
hero_image_alt_text===A male doctor wearing a face mask
thumbnail_alt_text===A male doctor wearing a face mask
These three patients have a lot in common: They are addicted to nicotine. They started smoking or vaping at age 15 or younger, using with friends. They buy or get their cigarettes or vapes from peers. They are victims of a multi-billion-dollar industry that profits from the lifetime addiction of its customers, who it makes ill and kills. They have lost a piece of their youthful exuberance and potential.
The cost of nicotine addiction to Oregon and our youth is enormous. According to Smokefree Oregon, we lose $2.9 billion in medical costs and lost productivity and nearly 8,000 lives every year because of tobacco. Each household pays $1,700 in increased taxes and insurance premiums each year to cover the cost of medical care for tobacco-related illness. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reports that youth vaping increased by a whopping 80% from 2017 to 2019. And, as illustrated by my patients, nicotine addiction - especially through vaping - is ripping holes in young lives.
This is why we need to raise the purchase price of tobacco. Tobacco users of all ages, but especially youth, are price sensitive. The OHA estimates the $2 per pack tax increase on the November ballot would decrease youth cigarette smoking by 24%. That is huge. In addition, the new 65% tax on vapes would make these nicotine-delivery devices too pricey for many teens to get hooked.
We can let Big Tobacco continue to extract profits from our teens and their futures. Or we can vote to increase tobacco taxes, create a vape tax, and send a message to the nicotine peddlers that our kids’ lives are not for sale.