Do you know what’s in your child’s backpack?

It’s time to get in that “back-to-school” mindset.  With all the excitement and school shopping, most parents probably don’t realize what lurks just around the corner.  Next time you are dropping off your kids at school, look around.  What types of businesses and products are being sold near your child’s school? 

From 2012-2014, there was a steady decline in cigarette use among our youth, but a four-fold increase in e-cigarettes.  It’s no secret who the tobacco industry is targeting to be their replacement smokers. In the recently released report from the CDC, the National Youth Tobacco Survey shows an alarming increase in the number of kids using flavored products.  Some of these products come in brightly colored packages and enticing flavors like cotton candy or watermelon. Often, the delivery systems look like a USB drive or a fancy ink pen. 

E-cigs and other vaping devices deliver nicotine and other harmful chemicals into the lungs using water vapor.  Vaping ads, along with the “fun” flavors, are enticing our youth, much like the cigarette industry used to lure some of us, or our parents, decades ago.  The National Youth Tobacco Survey indicates that 7 in 10 middle and high school students were exposed to some sort of tobacco marketing tool in 2014.  The sources of these ads come from internet, movies, magazines and TV.   Of those students, 80% admitted trying at least one flavored product in the last 30 days.

What do you need to know as parents?  These products are harmful and addictive. They taste good and they are easy to hide.  The fact is, e-cig use may lead to the consumption of other tobacco products.

Start early and talk to your kids about the dangers of tobacco.  Some of our local children are smoking their first cigarette at the age of six.  Tell them that it can seem like candy or the cool thing to do, but it’s not.  Encourage them to say no.  Come up with an agreement on how you can keep track of what’s in your child’s backpack.  It just might save them from years of addiction. 

For more information on how the tobacco industry targets your kids or for examples of products to be on the lookout for, visit

Lynn Ramberg is the Tobacco Awareness Coordinator for the Healthy Communities Action Team at Columbus Regional Health.

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