Butte County Public Health officials recently presented informative, startling presentations to both the Gridley Lions and Rotary Clubs regarding Gridley youth and the dangers of tobacco addiction.

Statistics provided by Ellen Michels, Director included 100 percent of Gridley stores randomly surveyed in 2016 sold flavored tobacco products; 69 percent of Gridley stores sell flavored chewing tobacco and 85 percent of Gridley stores sell flavored little cigars/cigarillos, such as Swisher Sweets. Little cigars/cigarillos are sold in a wide variety of flavors like grape, mango and chocolate and are regularly sold in packs of two or more for under $1.

The use of flavored tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos, smokeless tobacco, hookah tobacco and e-liquids (used in e-cigarettes) has increased in recent years. These products use enticing flavors, colorful packaging and lower prices to hook a new generation of tobacco users. Sweet flavors like watermelon, cherry, chocolate, mint and gummy bear appeal to kids and teens while flavorings mask the harsh taste of tobacco which makes it easier for you to initiate tobacco use.

Almost 23 percent of Butte County high school aged youth are current users of a tobacco product, whether it be cigarettes, cigarillos, chew or electronic cigarettes.

Seven out of ten teens who use tobacco have used a flavored product in the past 30 days according to information provided to the two service organizations.

In order to market the young people, flavorings also used on popular brands such as Jolly Rancher, Kool-Aid and Life Savers are used along with colorful packing and placement near the register to make them highly visible and attractive to kids.

The dangers of "popcorn lung" were shown by Michels who explained the chemical Diacetyl, found in 75 percent of flavored e-liquids is linked to bronchiolitis obliterans which causes irreversible lung damage.

The FDA has banned the sale of flavored cigarettes (other than menthol) because they appeal to youth. Flavored e-cigarettes, e-liquid, cigars, hookah and chewing tobacco continue to be sold.

Adverse health effects and other risks for marijuana use were included in the presentations. Some of these points included: Regular marijuana use in adolescence is associated with changes to areas of the brain involved in executive functions like memory, attention, learning, retention and impulse control; Among individuals aged 15-54, recreational marijuana use is independently associated with a 17 percent increased likelihood of acute ischemic stroke hospitalization and a survey among 320 recent marijuana users showed that 87 percent of them reported an over 50 percent probability of future driving under the influence of marijuana, even after having been shown data on the increased crash risk.

"Prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products is a critical step to preventing another generation of young people from living with a lifetime of addition," provided literature stated.

Many communities are limiting access to flavored tobacco products and several communities have adopted policies ending the sale of all flavored tobacco.