Graciela Monet Rangel is a junior at Missouri Valley High School. She’s also president of Iowa Students for Tobacco Education and Prevention.
Rangel spoke at an event Monday hosted by a group of coalitions at the Capitol.
“I went up and I talked about how important I think it is that we have regulations on the ever-growing vaping industry, which is very much one and the same with the tobacco industry,” she said. “It’s a massive, disgusting attack on American teenagers that the tobacco industry is continuing to fuel, continuing to attack and target American teenagers.
“We’ve seen it happen with generations previous with cigarettes and now it’s happening with new, cool, shiny, better-for-you, healthier, smoother-tasting, better-smelling vapes. I think it’s one in the same issue and it’s going to create very similar issues that we can’t entirely foresee right now.”
Rangel said England has evolved in its use of E-cigarettes.
“England as a country has gone about approaching this issue entirely differently,” she said. “They have massive regulations on where they can be advertised and how they can be advertised, what E-cigarettes can be titled as — whether medicine or consumer products, they have limits on how large cartridges can get and in what quantity you can buy them. They’re very restrictive on what flavors you can buy. A lot of restrictions on what chemicals can be in there. They actually have gone through the process of looking at what is actually in these things, whereas in the United States we don’t have a lot of that set in place. It’s entirely frustrating not seeing laws progress as quickly as technology is.”
The movement, she said, needs more publicity and needs to be in the minds of youth.
“This is not something that is safe, healthy, pleasant or going to bring you anything good in life,” she said. “Legislatively, I would like to see Iowa not only keep up with federal regulations but the growth of tobacco companies on their own. It’s really important we keep up with this ever-growing, changing industry that is continuing to target Americans.”
Both of Rangel’s parents smoked when she was younger. Her mother has since quit, but her father has continued.
“It’s interesting, the comparisons,” she said. “We go on bike rides together and sometimes my dad stops to cough and wheeze and have to break because he just can’t handle all that physical activity and his lungs just don’t have that capacity anymore.”
She also noted the difference between her clean, white fingernails and her father’s yellow, tarred up fingernails.
“It’s incredibly heartbreaking to know that the American people have already watched this progression of the tobacco industry and they’ve gotten an entire generation of people addicted.”
Rangel just wants to increase education and awareness of the issue.
“It’s important to have informed voices, informed discussion and be willing to listen to opposing sides and form opinions of your own,” Rangel said. “That is the only thing that is going to keep legislation moving and new ideas circulating.”
She said it’s important for young people to get involved in the process.
“I would absolutely encourage any youth, all youth, to participate in local government and absorb as much as they can,” she said. “We are going to be the feuture. We are inheriting the earth. We are the people who are going to be voting and changing the world.”