Vaping products have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth since 2014. This is a result of e-cigarette companies targeting youth and young adults with appealing marketing ads such as colorful store signs, television ads, popular movies, social media ads, or magazines with cool images.
As of June 28, 2021, JUUL–an industry leader in the e-cigarette and vaping market–reached an agreement with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. The agreement includes a $40 million settlement, along with a number of substantive changes that will impact their business, especially their client demographic. This is the first case where JUUL has been convicted of pandering to underage nicotine users. Fun flavors, peer pressure, and a ‘healthy’ tobacco alternative are not the only driving factors that cause people to pursue e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
In East African culture, tobacco use is considered an integral part of life. Products like shisha–the tobacco product used with hookah smoking–holds a social association within the community. WellShare’s East African Smoke-Free Program (EASFP) collaborates with East African communities in the Twin Cities to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco product use. Together, the communities work to implement smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing and gathering spaces. The program also works with large, community events to implement tobacco-free policies.
Using cultural assets to educate our community, we aim to break down myth-based tobacco beliefs that consider tobacco use an integral part of our culture. We educate our community about all kinds of tobacco, including shisha, and the negative health effects of using it. We are also educating the community about vaping which is new to our community and has become prevalent among youth. Many parents in the community do not recognize or know what vaping products look like, so it has become easy for youth to sneak it into their homes. We engage the community using different mediums including social media, local TV, and radio stations.
New restrictions on JUUL’s marketing, according to Josh Stein’s page on the North Carolina Department of Justice website, include: marketing exclusively to people 21 and over, “no using most social media advertising, influencer advertising, outdoor advertising near schools, and sponsoring sporting events and concerts,” and “no new flavors or nicotine content levels without FDA authorization” (https://ncdoj.gov/attorney-general-stein-reaches-agreement-with-juul-for-40-million-and-drastic-business-changes/).
We feel that the recent North Carolina settlement with JUUL is a first step towards ending this harmful youth-oriented habit, but it is not enough. We still have a lot of work to do. Please follow our social media page dedicated specifically to WellShare’s East African Smoke-Free Program @EASFPMN.