Strawberry, lemon, mango, blueberry, cinnamon and cheesecake all sound like great flavors of your favorite sweet treat. The bright colors and smells can make your mouth water for a snack or give you the urge to take a drag from an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette).

Amy Winter, director of the Office of Tobacco Control for the Mississippi State Department of Health, said there are thousands of e-cigarette flavors, and they’re increasing to include everybody’s favorite flavor.

She added menthol and other enticing flavors are luring adults to use tobacco, but youth have been hit the hardest. E-cigarette use among adults increased from 2010 through 2013 and plateaued, with primary use among current and former cigarette smokers. However, use among adolescents increased 900 percent from 2011 through 2015.

Mississippi and other states are starting to see the repercussions of this immense growth. Recently, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) identified its 11th vaping-related lung illness case in the state and one death. Most of the identified cases have been in individuals between 18 and 34 years of age. Such consequences have caused Massachusetts to change their law and become the first state to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, if other states are motivated to follow Massachusetts, it could provide a major boost to a national movement to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, finally putting an end to the tobacco industry’s long and harmful history of targeting kids and African-Americans with menthol cigarettes. A follow-up movement to get free help quitting for those already addicted to nicotine would be a salute to a positive historic action initiated by Massachusetts.

Evidence shows that menthol and e-cigarette flavors make it easier for youth to start smoking and harder for them to quit. We know how hard it can be to quit but we’re hoping youth and adults will allow us to help them schedule a quit day, to be a positive support team and to provide them with any of our free cessation materials they need.

For more information and resources about the dangers of e-cigarettes or tobacco products, visit www.healthyms.com/tobacco. For help with quitting, visit www.quitlinems.com or call the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Helen Boerner is the director of the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Itawamba and Monroe Counties.

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