More RI teens seeking alternatives to cigarettes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Less than 5% of Rhode Island’s teenagers say they smoke cigarettes, but health officials have said teens are using other tobacco products because of marketing directed right at kids.

The wrappers are shiny and almost look like candy.

“Because marketing of tobacco products has been removed from TV and radio and sports arenas, the corner store is now the place where the tobacco industry is having a one-way conversation with kids,” said Director of the DOH Tobacco Control Program Erin Boles Welsh.

According to the CDC, 25% of RI’s teenagers say they use one or more tobacco products.

“We have been recognizing declines in teen tobacco use for many years,” said Welsh. “We were able to envision a future that was tobacco free, but now with this reversal in trends, we’re not really sure what the future is going to hold for these kids.”

Cigarillos, hookah and e-cigarettes are fueling that increase.

“We hear so often from kids that they think many of these products are harmless or safer. No tobaco product, no level of nicotine is safe for teenagers,” stated the director.

Parents often don’t know that their kids are using their products, experts have said. Welsh warned that it is important for parents to be aware and intervene if they see their teens using any of these products.

Tobacco kills 1800 Rhode Islanders a year.