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San Marcos Community Calls for Reducing Access to Nicotine Products to Protect Youth Mental Health

By   /  May 7, 2024  /  No Comments

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San Marcos, CA (May, 2024) – According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), almost 90% of people who smoke daily started before they turned 18 years old. The tobacco industry deliberately targets kids through youth-friendly advertising and, as a result, about 2.8 million youth in the United States currently use tobacco. In fact, as indicated in the 2023. National Youth Tobacco Survey, tobacco use increased the most among middle school students, with the percentage increasing from 4.5% in 2022 to 6.6% in 2023. This is concerning as nicotine use at such a young age can affect brain development, causing issues with mood, attention, learning and other behavioral and mental health complications.

To raise awareness on these issues and how they affect the San Marcos Community, the Vista Community Clinic Tobacco Control Program hosted an interactive community forum at the San Marcos Community Center with organizations such as Lifeline Community Services, TURN Behavioral Health Services North Inland Teen Recovery Center, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and San Marcos Prevention Coalition. A guest panel discussed health consequences resulting from tobacco use, mental health resources available, what parents and caregivers can do and how we as a community can reduce youth access to these products.

In 2023, Vista Community Clinic conducted observations at 47 tobacco retailers in San Marcos to document tobacco advertising inside and outside of stores as well as the types of tobacco products and accessories inside. The results show that 2 out of 3 San Marcos tobacco retailers were located near places where youth gather, such as parks, rec centers, and schools. It was also discovered that 70% of the observed retailers were still selling flavored tobacco products despite a statewide ban on the sale of these flavors. Tobacco control professionals support protecting our kids’ mental and physical health with regulations that limit where and how tobacco products are sold. These regulations can reduce youth access and initiation of use, decreasing the likelihood of a lifetime of nicotine dependence and resulting health complications.

Devin Ghidella, a researcher at CSUSM and an advocate with VCC’s Tobacco Control Program, discussed her experience observing tobacco retailers in San Marcos and how retailers employ advertising at children’s eye level (approximately four feet) to draw attention to and normalize tobacco’s presence within communities. “The most astonishing thing is the fact that [San Marcos tobacco retailers] are still selling flavored tobacco products, despite the flavor ban. We sink all of our money and our resources and time to pass policies; however, they’re not being enforced. If we could fund youth decoy operations in order to lessen the amount of nicotine products available in the tobacco retail environment — that would be amazing,” said Ms. Ghidella.

Answering a community member’s question regarding the role of San Marcos’ government in protecting youth from tobacco use, San Marcos Councilmember Mike Sannella, who was in the audience, gave a short talk about how he wants to support efforts to reduce youth access to tobacco products in San Marcos. He made a point to voice his support for protecting youth from tobacco and that he was open to hearing the community’s concerns regarding this issue and others.

About Vista Community Clinic: With nine state-of-the-art locations in North San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties, VCC provides affordable, high quality health care to more than 70,000 community residents. Services offered by VCC include primary care, pediatrics, prenatal and women’s health, optometry, chiropractic care, dental health, podiatry, acupuncture and behavioral health services. VCC also offers a wide array of community health education programs, which are free and open to all community residents. VCC is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a
Level 3 (highest) Patient-Centered Medical Home, and is the recipient of the HRSA National Quality Leader Seal for exceeding national clinical quality benchmarks. For more information call 760.631.5000 or visit www.vcc.org

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