Teen supports Tobacco 21
The COVID-19 pandemic is alarming for all of us, including young people. I’m worried about my health, as well as my parents, grandparents and neighbors. I’m glad to see Minnesota leaders stepping up to address the pandemic.
We can’t forget other important ways to keep my generation healthy. There is still a huge problem of youth e-cigarette use, commonly known as vaping. Far too many teens are vaping, and the numbers keep rising. In just three years, the eighth-grade vaping rate doubled, and more than one in four 11th-graders vapes. As a high school senior, I’ve seen these statistics firsthand. My peers have been lured into tobacco use with cool looking products, fun flavors and targeted ads. Many of them were easily hooked by the big nicotine hit once they tried vaping. Some desperately want to quit but can’t stop.
COVID-19 shows we must do more to keep us all healthy, especially when it comes to our lungs. If we can reach kids before they ever start using tobacco products, we won’t see the devastating health consequences later.
I testified at the Tobacco 21 hearing in the city of St. Paul last fall to share my observations and fears about teen vaping. Our local lawmakers listened to the community’s concerns and raised the tobacco sales age to 21, as have local lawmakers in more than 70 other Minnesota cities. But all Minnesota youth should be protected from these dangerous products, and I’m calling on our state lawmakers to pass Tobacco 21 and protect the health of all Minnesota kids.
Together against intolerances
As spring appears in St. Paul, we struggle with dual impulses of going outside, yet exercising physical distance.
There is another dual impulse we need to address: the inclinations to demonstrate kindness or hatred. While we check in with relatives and friends to make sure they are doing well or wave to neighbors, verbal and physical threats are aimed at people of Asian descent. We speak from experience. Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society volunteers have been targets of hateful insults blaming China and Asians for the pandemic.
Speaking for our organization and for everyone I’ve known in the Twin Cities – this is not who we are.
The Twin Cities is a beacon of tolerance, a community blending good, old-fashioned midwestern kindness with an appreciation for diversity.
My hope is that a misguided and vengeful few – hiding behind the anonymity of message boards and online comments – will not have their voices elevated over the majority who understand this crisis. No country nor particular group are to blame for a pandemic. We are all in this together.
Our volunteers are proud that the Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters offers a place to enjoy the splendor of the outdoors in a safe and beautiful place where social distance exists in harmony with transcendent nature. You can sit in the Xiang Jiang Pavilion and relax and contemplate the sights, sounds, and smells of nature.
None of us know when this crisis will end and what “the new normal” will be. But I would bet my last dollar that in the future, the good people of the Twin Cities will gather within our institutions and public spaces to celebrate the diversity and spirit which makes this community a wonderful place to live and work.
President of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society