Since the adoption of I-502, I’ve been asking public health advocates, “If we could better regulate the tobacco industry before it became Big Tobacco, what would we do?” As Washington develops a marijuana industry, answers to that question can guide the way.
This week, the Liquor Control Board adopted a process for approving marijuana-infused foods and beverages to attempt to reduce the number of products that appeal to youth. This is a wise move considering what public health experts know about alcohol and tobacco products that are attractive to youth.
As we know from our experiences with tobacco and alcohol, some products are attractive to youth even though they are to be consumed only by people over the age of 21.
- For instance, several years ago 20% of smokers ages 17 to 19 reported using flavored tobacco products within the last 30 days, compared to 6% of adult smokers. Soon after the study that produced this finding was released, the Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes. Now the FDA is in the process of determining how to regulate e-cigarettes, including flavored nicotine products.
- Flavored alcoholic beverages are highly popular among underage drinkers. A recent study shows that among alcohol brands favored by underage drinkers, Smirnoff malt beverages are popular. This brand includes flavors like blue raspberry lemonade, pineapple, green apple, grape, root beer, and root beer float.
Regulating products so that they do not appeal to children is an important component of a multi-pronged strategy for preventing underage substance use. The LCB's regulations for marijuana-infused products are a perfect example of how multiple sectors in our state have roles to play to prevent underage marijuana use.