With SB 21, education and policy go together

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Photo Credit: Abriella Corker | Daily Texan Staff

 Senate Bill 21 is a roaring victory for our state’s efforts to keep young people healthy and away from substances that harm them. We have joined almost half the states of the U.S. in fightingthis cancer-causing habit.

We know from decades of research that smoking causes long-lasting problems — not just lung cancers, but problems that can hurt practically every organ. This is especially true for younger tobacco product users. 

For most of us, the body is still developing until the early 20s, especially the brain. Almost all adult smokers start their habit before the age of 21, most of  them in middle or high school. 

The nicotine in cigarettes is so addictive that once someone enjoys the “hit,” it’s hard to stop the habit. Flavors only make it worse.

Even after many attempts, this habit is hard to let go. What better solution to this than to never start? This law seeks to do just that by keeping tobacco products away from young people in schools and colleges. It was already illegal for those under 18, but raising the age helps further.  

The recent trend of electronic cigarettes is the other problem teens and college adults are facing. 

Many medical experts, government authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researchers are all in agreement that e-cigarettes are not harm-free. 

There isn’t even consensus that they are less harmful than cigarettes.

We might as well be comparing apples to oranges in comparing vaping to smoking. The CDC recently issued a health advisory about severe lung disease from vaping. Those who believe vaping without nicotine is
innocent are mistaken. 

Not only have many immediate harmful effects of vaping been noted, but more and more research is pointing to long-term harmful effects as well. While research is still being done on these products, it is best to stay away from any tobacco, nicotine or vaping products. 

These products are habit-forming and also expose others around us to chemicals that harm them, even if they don’t smoke or vape.  

A lung problem called Spontaneous Pneumothorax is now happening in some people who vape. This type of lung damage, usually seen in factory workers or in those in hazardous places like fires or chemical accidents, is now appearing in some people who vape, surprising doctors.

Seizures are also being reported in some e-cigarette users. 

While officials still don’t know the exact cause of these issues, thanks to SB 21, less college students will have access to these products and less will be hurt by either smoking on their own or being around someone else vaping. 

Alexander Prokhorov is the director of the Youth and Family Cancer Prevention Program and Tobacco Outreach Education Program at The University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center.