By RIA ROEBUCK JOSEPH
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – In a 2020 Student Tobacco Survey it was revealed that 91.6% of high school students use some form of tobacco or by product. These include vapes, hookah, smokeless tobacco, cigarillos, cigars, and cigarettes.
“DOJ is all in on the fight to protect California’s youth from harmful and addictive tobacco products,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Our law enforcement partners play an invaluable role in this fight, enforcing state and local tobacco laws that safeguard the health of their communities.
A report by the California Department of Public Health and California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) which published the survey, notes: “Among California high school youth who reported current tobacco use, the percent of youth trying to quit cigarettes, little cigars or cigarillos, and/or vapes increased between 2018 and 2020. Attempts to quit vaping more than doubled in two years.”
Even though tobacco products are only to be sold to adults over the age of 21, retailers continue to sell to underage persons. In another tobacco purchase survey conducted by CTCP, coastal regions in California had higher rates of underage sales in 2019. The Central Coast region had the highest rate of underage sales at 55.2%. The Tri‐County South region had the lowest rate of underage sales at 9.3%.
To help reduce childhood addiction to tobacco and its by-products, and the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors, the Department of Justice is launching The Tobacco Grant Program.
A grant of $26.4 million is available to law enforcement agencies, cities, counties, public K-12 districts, and public college districts or any local public agency wanting to enforce tobacco-related laws. The grant supports:
– Retailer compliance checks;
– Enforcement of flavor ban laws/ordinances;
– Consumer protection enforcement;
– Illegal online sales and marketing, including use of door-to-door delivery services;
– Retailer training programs;
– Public education outreach;
– Tobacco retail license inspections.
“The Tobacco Grant Program provides valuable resources and tools to aid them in these efforts. Together, we can build a healthier and happier California,” Mr. Bonta said in a May 22 release.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99% of e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive and can damage the adolescent brain, the effects of which continue into the early mid-20s.
The parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control are susceptible to nicotine use at a time when adolescent brains are forming synapses at optimum speed. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed starting a cycle of dependence.
Once the brain and body becomes used to nicotine, it changes the normal regulation of moods and sleep. This can result in temporary symptoms of nicotine withdrawal when nicotine is not in the body. Symptoms include irritability, restlessness, feeling anxious or depressed, trouble sleeping, problems concentrating, and craving nicotine.
Eligible organizations can find information about the grant application process or qualifications here: oag.ca.gov/tobaccogrants.
The California Department of Justice’s Tobacco Grant Program is funded by Proposition 56, the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016.