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The tobacco industry is addicting our kids

The tobacco industry’s replacement customers can’t legally buy their products but that hasn’t stopped the billion-dollar, Big Tobacco marketing machine from targeting kids with social media ads, fun flavors, and products that appear less harmful than their parent’s cigarettes.1

The tobacco industry has doubled down on addicting young people as their business model – harming kids’ health as they experiment with new products and flavors to see what sticks. Flavors such as menthol, Blue Razz, Banana Ice, and Arctic Cool Mint were created by the industry to mask the harsh taste of tobacco, which kids don’t like, making tobacco products easier to start using and even harder to quit.23 Big Tobacco depends on young people using their products to make a profit and keep them in business.4 And flavored vapes are kids’ product of choice.3 Teens who vape are 3x more likely to become daily cigarette smokers.5

Most California high school students who use tobacco use vapes.3 Vaping allows higher concentrations of nicotine to be inhaled and absorbed more easily than other tobacco products like cigarettes.6 Nicotine – which is as addictive as heroin – is poison for the developing brain and rewires the brain to crave more of it.78 This creates nicotine withdrawal symptoms like headaches, restlessness, and the inability to concentrate.91011 We know that nicotine can affect learning and increase anxiety, mood swings, and irritability.12131415

It’s not all about vapes though. Other tobacco products are just as appealing for their wide array of flavors and low-cost ease of purchasing, such as smokeless tobacco like snus or chew, and little cigars and cigarillos.1617 Unfortunately, these are also harmful to the developing brain and body because they also contain nicotine.18

This is the moment to break the cycle of addiction. We have the power to create a better, tobacco-free future in California and that starts with keeping Big Tobacco from targeting our kids for disease and death.


Nicotine Equals Brain Poison

Nicotine is an extremely addictive poison and neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young people’s developing brains.7111920

Read the article

Parents' Guide on Nicotine Addiction

Help prevent the dangers of nicotine addiction.

View the guide

Kids will use any e-cigarette they can get their hands on easily. They are buying credit card type gift cards then using those to purchase the devices online. We’ve seen every shape, size and brand come through our office.

Vice Principal — California Middle School

One of the biggest problems with vaping is how paranoid and easily irritated I am.

Student, 15 years old — Mono County

As usual, my kid knew more about the subject than I did, but I was ready. The conversation starters helped make this important talk not just another lecture.

Jennifer, Parent — San Francisco

Signs your kid may be addicted to nicotine

Are there sweet, fruity, or menthol smells coming from behind closed doors?
Read about the sale of flavored tobacco
Are there school supplies like thumb drives or tech products you don’t recognize in your kid’s backpack or room? How about small vials, eye dropper bottles, chargers, coils or batteries?
Learn to identify vapes
Are your kids suffering from more frequent headaches or nausea?21
Learn more
Have there been changes in your kid’s behavior such as increased mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or impulsivity?11314152223
Learn about nicotine and the adolescent brain
Is your teen spending more money than usual or making unexplained purchases?
Learn more
Help prevent the dangers of nicotine addiction.
View the full guide
A young boy, Ramond

Tobacco industry’s damage

The tobacco industry currently spends billions each year on slick marketing tactics and political influence so they can profit off death and disease.2425
Learn more
Even for people who don’t use tobacco, there can be deadly consequences.26
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The industry calls kids their “replacement customers.” Big Tobacco sentences them to a lifetime of addiction and disease.27
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This racist and unjust industry has strategically targeted certain communities with deadly products and manipulative messaging.28
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No one’s safe from the environmental damage and health risks from toxic tobacco waste and its plastic pollution.29303132333435
Learn more
lady in a garden wearing a head scarf

Hold the industry accountable

California has already protected people from other harmful products, and it’s time to hold the tobacco industry to the same standards.3637
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health 2016.
  2. Park-Lee E, Ren C, Sawdey MD, et al. Notes from the Field: E-Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1387–1389. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7039a4.
  3. Zhu S, Braden K, Zhuang Y et al. Results Of The Statewide 2019-20 California Student Tobacco Survey. San Diego: Center for Research and Intervention in Tobacco Control (CRITC), University of California San Diego; 2021. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DCDIC/CTCB/CDPH%20Document%20Library/ResearchandEvaluation/FactsandFigures/2019-20CSTSBiennialReport_7-27-2021.pdf. Accessed December 3, 2021.
  4. Maloney J. Against All Odds, the U.S. Tobacco Industry Is Rolling in Money; Profits are booming, despite government regulation, huge legal settlements and fewer smokers. The Wall Street Journal. April 27, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-tobacco-industry-rebounds-from-its-near-death-experience-1492968698%20
  5. Pierce JP, Chen R, Leas EC, et al. Use of E-cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products and Progression to Daily Cigarette Smoking. Pediatrics. 2021;147(2):e2020025122. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-025122.
  6. Truth Initiative. E-cigarettes: Facts, stats and regulations. truthinitiative.org. Published June 15, 2021. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations.
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, Center for Health Promotion and Education, Office on Smoking and Health, 1988.
  8. U.S. Surgeon General. Know the Risks. e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html. Accessed March 10, 2022.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html. Reviewed April 7, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2022.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 7 Common Withdrawal Symptomscdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/7-common-withdrawal-symptoms/index.html. Reviewed June 18, 2021. Accessed April 14, 2022.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nicotine. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0446.html. Reviewed October 30, 2019. Accessed April 14, 2022.
  12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surgeon General. (2018). Surgeon General’s advisory on e-cigarette use among youth. https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/surgeon-generals-advisory-on-e-cigarette-use-among-youth-2018.pdf
  13. Kutlu MG, Gould TJ. Nicotine modulation of fear memories and anxiety: Implications for learning and anxiety disorders. Biochem Pharmacol. 2015;97(4):498–511. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2015.07.029.Kutlu MG, Gould TJ. Nicotine modulation of fear memories and anxiety: Implications for learning and anxiety disorders. Biochem Pharmacol. 2015;97(4):498–511. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2015.07.029.
  14. Etter JF, Ussher M, Hughes JR. A Test of Proposed New Tobacco Withdrawal Symptoms. Addiction. 2012;108(1):50-59. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03981.x.
  15. Hughes JR. Effects of abstinence from tobacco: Valid symptoms and time course. Nicotine Tob Res. 2007;9(3):315-327. doi:10.1080/14622200701188919.
  16. Harlow AF, Vogel EA, Tackett AP, et al. Adolescent Use of Flavored Non-Tobacco Oral Nicotine Products. Pediatrics. 2022;150(3):e2022056586. doi:10.1542/peds.2022-056586
  17. O'Connor R, Schneller LM, Felicione NJ, et al Evolution of tobacco products: recent history and future directions Tobacco Control 2022;31:175-182.
  18. Nicotine is why tobacco products are addictive. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Published June 29, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-effects-tobacco-use/nicotine-why-tobacco-products-are-addictive
  19. Mishra A, Chaturvedi P, Datta S, Sinukumar S, Joshi P, Garg A. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015;36(1):24-31. doi:10.4103/0971-5851.151771
  20. Goriounova NA, Mansvelder HD. Short- and long-term consequences of nicotine exposure during adolescence for prefrontal cortex neuronal network function. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012;2(12):a012120. Published 2012 Dec 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a012120
  21. American Lung Association. What it means to be Nic-Sick. Published October 1, 2019. https://www.lung.org/blog/nic-sick
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  24. Federal Trade Commission. Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2020. Washington, D.C.: Published October 2021. Accessed May 2, 2024. https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-cigarette-report-2020-smokeless-tobacco-report-2020/p114508fy20cigarettereport.pdf
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  29. Break Free From Plastic. Branded Vol. III: Demanding corporate accountability for plastic pollution. 2020. https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BFFP-2020-Brand-Audit-Report.pdf
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  32. Jacob H, Besson M, Swarzenski PW, Lecchini D, Metian M. Effects of Virgin Micro- and Nanoplastics on Fish: Trends, Meta-Analysis, and Perspectives. Environ Sci Technol. 2020;54(8):4733-4745. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b05995.
  33. Ziv-Gal A, Flaws JA. Evidence for bisphenol A-induced female infertility: a review (2007-2016). Fertil Steril. 2016;106(4):827-856. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.06.027.
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  35. Belzagui F, Buscio V, Gutiérrez-Bouzán C, Vilaseca M. Cigarette butts as a microfiber source with a microplastic level of concern. Science of The Total Environment. 2021;762:144165. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144165.
  36. Governor Newsom Signs Legislation Making California First in the Nation to Ban Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics [press release]. gov.ca.gov. Published September 30, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/09/30/governor-newsom-signs-legislation-making-california-first-in-the-nation-to-ban-toxic-chemicals-in-cosmetics/.
  37. Landmark California law bans 'forever chemicals' in products for infants, children [press release]. ewg.org. Published October 5, 2021. Accessed March 23, 2022. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/2021/10/landmark-california-law-bans-forever-chemicals-products-infants.