Bellevue teen urges others to kick the smoking habit; fights e-cig ‘epidemic’




BELLEVUE – Madison Larimore just returned from the 12th annual Youth Advocacy Symposium in Washington, D.C., as the Tobacco-Free Kids’ central region Youth Advocate of the Year.

The 2015 Bellevue West High School graduate received the title in May (and again in Washington, D.C.) for her leadership in the fight against tobacco.

She serves on the youth board of No Limits, Nebraska’s youth-led anti-tobacco group which is working to increase tobacco prevention funding in the state.

“We’re the generation that will either continue the current smoking trends or take a stand and change the social norm,” Larimore said.

This past week, she visited Capitol Hill with 25 other youth advocates from 20 states. Her lobbying efforts with the group have already resulted in a state ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and the adoption of policies which regulate the placement of tobacco products in retail stores.

“We showed legislators e-cigarette and cigarillo products to point out how cheap they are, pictures taken from our hometowns to how accessible to youth they are and how ridiculous the flavoring is — flavors and packaging look similar to candy: fruit punch, watermelon and even gummy bear. My gas station down the street had some named Unicorn Poop, Devil’s Dessert and Sinful Seduction,” Larimore said.

This year’s request of legislators, she said, was to not undermine the FDA’s ability to regulate e-cigarettes and cigarillos.

“This ask could not come at a better time,” she said. “Over 50 years ago, when my great-aunt Carol started smoking, nobody knew the consequences of using tobacco. “

Larimore’s anti-puffing passion increased after losing that aunt to emphysema.

“The industry was allowed to market as they pleased — including to children,” she said.

Larimore quoted a survey by Tobacco-Free Nebraska and said, “Because of this, traditional tobacco products have left a stain on our society that’s still evident in today’s statistics: the average adult smoking rate in Nebraska is 17.4 percent (2014) and the average youth smoking rate in Nebraska is 13 percent (2015).”

Traditional tobacco product use has declined, she said, but e-cigarettes are the question mark of her generation.

“Nobody’s quite sure what e-cigs and cigarillos are made of, what’s in the vapor or what the health effects might be. A Centers for Disease Control study showed e-cigarette usage among teens tripled between 2013 and 2014 and for the first time, surpassed teen usage of traditional cigarettes,” Larimore said. “My call to youth advocates, legislators and readers alike is to not let the tobacco industry trick us into fighting another 50 years of battling their addictive and deadly products.

“Let’s learn from the past and put an end to the e-cigarette epidemic of our generation.”

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