Missoula Voices: Pediatrician supports I-185; alarmed by teenage vaping

As a pediatrician, I am alarmed by statistics that show that a rapidly rising number – now 30 percent – of Montana teenagers are using e-cigarettes or vaping.

Without prompt action to reduce the appeal of these new tobacco products to teens, we’ll be raising the next generation of nicotine-addicted kids. We know nicotine exposure in adolescence can harm the developing brain, and as a society, we all pay the millions in health care costs associated with tobacco use.

Aerosols involved in e-cigarette use are harmful; they contain heavy metals and organic compounds already linked to lung disease. And kids addicted to e-cigarettes are more likely to use other tobacco products and drugs. Tobacco products already cause 1,600 premature deaths in Montana and are the cause of 28 percent of cancer deaths.

That’s why I am urging you to support I-185. This initiative will reduce e-cigarette and cigarette use among both kids and adults in Montana. Increasing taxes on tobacco products has been shown time and again to prevent people from starting to use them. In addition, the tax will fund programs to prevent kids from smoking, help veterans, and prevent 100,000 Montana families from losing their health insurance.

Don’t believe the big-tobacco funded groups that are campaigning against “tax hikes.” If you don’t smoke, you don’t pay the tax. Taxing e-cigarettes and other tobacco products improves health. They’re fighting this initiative because they know I-185 will prevent children and teens from starting a lifelong habit.

Montanans should tell them to take their propaganda elsewhere, and support this initiative to protect ourselves, our neighbors and our kids.

Lauren Wilson is a pediatrician at Community Medical Center in Missoula.