LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In addition to traditional cigarettes, Kentucky’s Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow is now taking on electronic cigarette users.
New data suggests one in five high school students uses an electronic cigarette, a 78-percent upsurge in 2018. The number of middle school students who use e-cigarettes is also rising, up 48-percent since 2017.
While youth cigarette smoking in Kentucky has steadily declined, the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, known as vapes and Juuls, is putting a new generation of teens at risk of nicotine addiction.
State health officials say the increased use of e-cigarettes has reached epidemic proportions.
Kentucky’s Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow says in addition to taxing e-cigarettes and including their use in smoke free laws, flavored e-cigs should be banned.
“Flavors have been banned with cigarettes no reason in the world why they shouldn’t be banned with e-cigarettes," president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Ben Chandler said. "We know that flavors are an attraction for youth.”
Chandler emphasized the health hazards of using e-cigs at a conference on Monday.
“Kids may think e-cigs are safe for them to use, but they’re not. Short-term, the nicotine in e-cigs harms the parts of kids' brains that control learning and impulse control. E-cig vapor also has chemicals and metals that can damage lungs – for both the youth who is vaping and those who inhale the secondhand vapor. Longer term, the gateway effect means kids who use e-cigs today are significantly increasing their risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, oral disease and tooth loss, and all the other smoking-related health issues later on,” said Chandler.
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says cities should also be allowed to raise the legal age of e-cigarette use within its jurisdiction.