Tobacco use in Anderson County has decreased in years past, going from 16.2% of 6th through 12th graders having used in the past 30 days in 2012, down to 13.8% in 2014 and reached an all-time low in 2016 at 7.4%. Knowing that reducing access is one of the most effective ways to deter use, ASAP of Anderson began working with tobacco retailers to encourage compliance with laws dedicated to ensure the protection of minors from being able to purchase tobacco products. Each year, ASAP delivers age verification materials to local retailers including ID coders, ID checking guides, Tobacco Retailer Education Guides, and other support materials. In Tennessee, there are two programs in place to monitor the sale of tobacco to minors. The first, SYNAR, checked 11 retailers in Anderson County and found a 100% compliance rate. The second, Tobacco Enforcement, checked 91 retailers and found a compliance rate of 97.8%. Looking back to 2012, the compliance rate was only 87.8%. We are so proud of what our community has accomplished in regard to this major decrease in tobacco use.
However, even with all of these positive results, we still have work to do to protect our youth. ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery System) use has increased around the country. These products actually have some of the same cancer-causing chemicals as traditional cigarettes as well as nicotine and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead. The CDC has determined that these products are NOT safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. Nicotine contained in these products can harm adolescent brain development which continues into the mid-20s. Despite all of the concerns, ENDS use is on the rise with 11.3% of high school students across the country reporting they used these products in the past 30-days. ASAP will continue to work on educating youth and the entire community about the concerns related to ENDS use.