I am writing this as an urgent appeal to ask for your vote in favor of Senate Bill 21, designed to keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people. You may be aware that UT Health Northeast did a detailed study about the health of Northeast Texas, and found us to have much higher tobacco rates than the rest of Texas. This was thought to be a key factor in our low regional health rankings.
As the Medical Director for Population Health at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic, I have the responsibility to research the needs of our patients and develop programs that support patients in healthy living behaviors. I spent much of 2018 creating tobacco cessation tools within our electronic medical record, and organizing tobacco cessation seminars in our area. As a practicing physician, I can attest to the difficulty we have in helping patients break their tobacco addiction. Many try for years unsuccessfully to quit. Many smokers can attest that it would have been better if they had not started to smoke in the first place.
Much research confirms that the young, developing brain is most at risk for developing addiction pathways. If patients in their late 20s first try smoking, the likelihood of subsequent addiction is very small. Now that electronic cigarettes are available to teenagers, they can more easily “sneak” an inhalation whenever they have a craving. This instant satisfaction of their craving makes the development of addiction pathways in the brain even more potent.
My children attend a public high school in the area, and have told me that students sometimes take a drag on an e-cigarette when the teacher steps out of the room. There are no odors left behind that have them get “caught.” In addition, these e-cigarette devices come in all shapes and sizes, with some designed to look like USB ports or lipstick canisters. Research also proves that the largest source for tobacco products for younger teens come from older teens. Making it more difficult for 18-21 year olds to get tobacco products will help to take nicotine out of the hands of younger teens.
As a practicing physician and clinic administrator, I will continue in my efforts to help patients quit smoking.
However, I truly need your help to keep from indoctrinating another generation of nicotine addicts. Please support SB 21, and make it harder for young people to experience nicotine during this critical time of brain development.
Janet Hurley, MD
Medical Director of Population Health
CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System