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High Schooler Takes a Stance Against Flavored Tobacco

Ninety percent of adult smokers develop a tobacco addiction as teenagers or earlier. Since 2009, e-cigarettes have become a worrisome gateway to regular smoking. Addressing this dangerous habit early is critical in the journey towards a tobacco-free generation. In 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams officially declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States.  Now is the time to take action.

The fight against smoking is personal. Having grown up in India surrounded by smokers, and losing family members to smoking, my mother taught me the dangers posed by tobacco usage. Her argument was effective since I have never really considered trying a cigarette. And I think their generation did a good job at discouraging cigarette use. When I ask my friends they are likely to express disgust at the idea of using cigarettes, and youth cigarette usage is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, this disgust doesn’t seem to transfer to e-cigarettes, which are seen as cool and hip.

Flavors are a big reason my peers start using e-cigarettes. In fact, 4 out of 5 kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Juul and other e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of kids and reversing decades of progress cutting youth tobacco use. The flavors lure them in, and the nicotine keeps them hooked.” I know many classmates and friends who vape. My neighbor’s son is still only in middle school, but he’s already become addicted to e-cigarettes. He started because he saw a chocolate flavored e-cigarette and thought it was fun to try. How bad can something that’s candy-flavored be? And I have a classmate who started vaping because his grandfather tried to quit using e-cigarettes. He tried his vapes. He still smokes cigarettes, and now, he’s addicted. Some of my friends talk about comparing peach and strawberry flavors and which is better. And every high school kid knows about that one bathroom where you can vape in secret. The fact of the matter is, flavored tobacco and exposure to it makes it far more likely for kids to get hooked. And Big Tobacco doesn’t care.

But the CA legislature can make a difference now by putting the lives of youth ahead of the profits of Big Tobacco. As a passionate anti-vaping and anti-tobacco activist, I am pushing the California lawmakers to prioritize youth health by supporting SB793, the bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco.

 In May 2020, as a National Youth Ambassador representing California for The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Legislative Ambassador I testified in front of the California Senate Health Committee this May, along with CA Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and Stanford professor Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, urging for a Yes vote.

http://https://youtu.be/j55HvYFE89A

Senate Bill 793, written by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), makes it illegal to sell flavored tobacco or tobacco flavor enhancer products. This include tobacco products such as cigarettes including Menthol flavored, cigars, cigarillos, and chewing tobacco, as well as newer products such as e-cigarettes, vape juice, and vaping systems.

Thankfully, the bill was passed and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom after months of advocacy and hard work from young people and adults alike. I was extremely grateful to have participated in the signing process via Zoom. 

Governor Newson signing the legislation over Zoom.

 It’s not easy being a Youth Advocate for quitting tobacco. At the 2020 National Symposium for The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what-we-do/youth-programs#ambassadors I addressed over 100 youth activists nationwide, sharing details about the harassment and attacks I faced on social media for speaking up against vaping. However, I am not deterred and will continue to find ways to help reduce the spread of tobacco in the communities, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, that affects lungs, placing smokers and vapers at especially higher risk of complications


Aditya Indla is an emerging community leader with Breath California, a non-profit organization and he has spoken in front of Dublin, Hayward, and Pleasanton City councils in support of a flavored tobacco ban. He is working to improve the tobacco retail policies in Union City and Newark as the Co-founder of Project Aegle. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he raised over $10,000 to 3D print PPE for health care workers and was recognized as one of the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth’s Leaders who Inspire you to Change the World.

Congressman Khanna Informs Local Media on What Keeps Congress Awake at Night

Congressman Ro Khanna spoke with the journalists from ethnic media on 12th November 2019. The teleconference, organized by Vandana Kumar, Publisher India Currents, came at a timely juncture when the nation and community is gearing up for the 2020 Presidential elections and it is time to take stock of what the nation has gained and lost in the last few years. Cyber security and Healthcare emerged as two issues that impact the community and are close to the heart of the Congress.

Cyber security, with routine data mining in the face of the fast changing social media landscape, was raised as a special concern. As Internet becomes a large part of our daily lives what is Congress doing in terms of legislation to address the issue of cyber crime? The Congressman addressed the press’ concerns and spoke of his request for the Internet Bill of Rights.

Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) has introduced the Internet Bill of Rights, a proposal that includes the right to know about “all collection and uses of personal data by companies,” and to be notified “in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” He aims to strengthen people’s ability to correct or delete personal data in a company’s control, and require companies to obtain consumer consent before collecting or sharing data with third parties. In the Congressman’s words the bill would require people to give their consent making it harder for the companies to collect data, a situation better than the one in China where people have very little protection.

The Congressman also felt blatant falsity should not be allowed. There is an obligation on the part of companies like Google and Facebook to check for an obvious disregard of the truth. If copyright violation can be checked then surely they can remove false information by following the same procedure. Perhaps, he said, we need an independent depoliticized government agency that can define the rules and draw the boundary of truth.

Though there is a desire to regulate social media before the 2020 election, what really keeps the Congress awake at night is the question of healthcare. Khanna is hoping the social media corporations will hopefully voluntarily self regulate if no legislation can be passed in time for the 2020 elections. However, Congress must and has been working hard on providing affordable healthcare.

It is the Congressman’s view that “more than almost anything else, our health has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day activities, state of mind, and overall well-being. Good health is foundational to everything else we do – our ability to take care of our families, be productive at work, and pursue our passions and hobbies”.

“We need basic care and low premiums,” said the Congressman.

Congressman Khanna would like the creation of a single-payer health care system, or Medicare for All and supports legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for more reasonable drug prices. This type of legislation will allow Americans below the age of 65 to buy into Medicare. A result of this would be that community members could save money through reduced fees and premiums.

Congressman Khanna also supports legislation to allow for the importation of drugs from nations that we trust. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs.

“We must increase coverage, support small businesses, expand primary care, and provide lower premiums. Medicare for All is the next step toward addressing the high costs and inequalities in the current health care system,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. The congressman feels the states should be empowered to create their own solution if the federal government is unable to establish a single-payer system. We must guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.

The telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections”, moderated by Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents), gave Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. Sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, it is part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates.

Ritu Marwah is a citizen who would like to pay closer attention to the political issues that are bound to impact her life. She understands that an informed citizen is a safer citizen.