WWhen it comes to children’s health, parents – and public activism – can make a difference.
the declining valuation from Juul, manufacturer of vaping equipment, and the flight of regulations restrict the nicotine vaping market can be assigned in large part to the actions of parents who were shocked and dismayed at the toll vaping was taking on their children and their children’s friends.
Their efforts were necessary because the federal government abdicated his responsibility to protect young people against an addictive substance that is recklessly marketed to them despite years of calls researchers and health professionals to curb large vaping companies that put the health of young people at risk.
Yet here we are again. The alarm bells are already ringing for the next threat to the health and safety of young people: edibles made from marijuana. And again, not only does the government seem to be ignoring it, it is doing more to help the marijuana industry than to protect families from being blinded again by a harmful product that infiltrates children’s lives. .
Next to a decades-long decline in the use of tobacco products by young people, the use of nicotine vaping got up hastily in just a few years. Unlike cigarettes, which emit a characteristic odor when smoked, vaping devices produce a slight sweet odor that quickly dissipates. They are small and unobtrusive and look like other commonly used products like USB sticks or pens. These characteristics have made it possible for young people to vape nicotine – or marijuana – in classrooms, bathrooms, at home or in public, easily out of sight, making detection by difficult adults. Many parents have been taken by surprise and shocked to see their children struggling with addiction to a substance that many did not even realize they were using.
Once it struck home, however, they leveraged their influence and took on a multibillion-dollar industry – and the federal government – to impose much-needed restrictions on an out of control market.
The federal legal minimum selling age for all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, has been raised. Flavored vaping products were banned and restrictions were placed on where and how they could be sold. Ads have been removed from social media. The media reported on the harmful practices of vaping companies, refuting years of industry proclamations on the benefits of vaping for cigarette smokers who went far beyond the available evidence.
This drastic shift in the country’s reaction to vaping resulted in the first significant drop in the use of electronic cigarettes among young people over the years, as well as a increased perceived risk harm from the use of these products, and a significant number of young people wanting to to leave.
It would not have taken years to put this issue on the national agenda. The signs of the dangers of nicotine vaping for kids were there from the start, for those who wanted to see them. These include alarming increases in calls to poison centers for young children unintentionally exposed to toxic e-liquids; the cases of exploding vaping devices; tweens and teens touting the delicious flavors of vaping products and share vaping photos and videos on social networks; and schools, parents and doctors noticing that the children could not sit still, had wild mood swings, and displayed real symptoms of addiction.
Similar warning signs are appearing for edibles made from marijuana. There have been spikes in the number of calls to poison control centers across the country for unintentional exposures to edibles in children under 10 years old. Teens in search of what they believe to be a safe way to get high have little problem accessing and using marijuana in edible forms that escape the attention of adults around them. And national data show that teens are increasingly turning to these discreet and tasty patterns of marijuana use, and that those who consume edibles – or vape marijuana – are more likely to use the drug on a daily basis than teens who use it. smoke.
The risk to adolescents from edible marijuana and its vaping should not be ruled out. Teens who frequently use marijuana are significantly more likely adults to become addicted to drugs and have an increased risk of consumption of other substances, and are also more likely to display a range of cognitive and mental health problems. We and our colleagues from Partnership to end drug addiction see these statistics manifest in calls to our helpline, where worries about a child’s marijuana use are the number one reason families turn to us for help. Marijuana is by far the most common substance for which adolescents are admitted for treatment of substance use disorders.
Marketing tactics for edible marijuana products follow a manual similar to that used to promote vaping. This should come as no surprise, because the big companies taking over the marijuana industry are the same tobacco and alcohol companies with decades of experience in making addictive products for young people. The goal? Gain loyal customers for their addictive products, even at the expense of children’s health.
This common model of marketing practices includes the use of cartoon characters sell cigarettes; alcohol sold as fruity alcopops, wine coolers, and sweet flavored seltzer; e-cigarettes sold in an amazing range of flavors; and now edibles made from marijuana that are indistinguishable from products generally coveted by children. These include gummy bears, sour candy, lollipops, sodas, and other sweet marijuana foods with names like Stoney Patch Kids, Frooty Loopys, and Buddahfinger. While an adult looking to get high may find these names fun, edibles don’t have to mirror childhood candy to appeal to adults.
Similar government inaction
State governments and the federal government were practically asleep at the wheel when nicotine vaping began to saturate all middle and high schools across the country. In contrast, most states have provisions in their marijuana laws to protect children from accessing and ingesting products loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. But these protections are clearly insufficient.
Canada does not allow edible products to be packaged in a colorful or child-friendly manner. Regulations in the United States, however, are lax or nonexistent. A well-funded lobbying effort from the marijuana industry and a public desperate for unlimited access to drugs in all its possible forms have succeeded in influencing lawmakers to relax regulations and restrictions on marijuana. The result is an increase in the number of children in states where recreational marijuana use is legal and who say it is. easy for them to access marijuana.
For those who care about public health, it is clear that the march towards legalization of marijuana should not continue without ensuring adequate protection for children of all ages, babies who can suffer serious health effects. ingesting edibles to adolescents who can access marijuana with relative ease. . We shouldn’t have to wait until more children are hurt to trigger enough parental outrage to act.
The vaping crisis should make it easy to see what’s to come when it comes to edible marijuana. Those best positioned to act are state governments, whose job it is to protect children and the public health of an industry driven solely by profit. Unfortunately, most state governments are blinded by the overestimated tax revenue potential and fear of public disapproval of any attempt to control access to marijuana.
It seems the only group angry enough to tackle the burgeoning industry use of kid-friendly packaging, designs, names and flavors for THC-laden products so far. is the traditional confectionery industry. Companies like Wrigley and Hershey, seeing their intellectual property rights and branding undermined by certain edible companies that mimic packaging and labeling of their famous candy brands, have taken legal action against companies that irresponsibly sell these addicting THC-infused products.
One lesson from the vaping epidemic that bears repeating is that parents can be a catalyst for change. But it shouldn’t really be their job to protect children from edibles made from marijuana. Policymakers and legislators must act to keep these products out of the reach of young people before other children are harmed.
Linda Richter is vice president of prevention, research and analysis at Partnership to End Addiction, where Lindsey Vuolo is vice president of health law and policy.