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Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow set to outline troubling increase in e-cigarette use among teens

By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service

Health groups in Kentucky say teens in the state have the wrong idea when it comes to the safety of e-cigarettes.

Ben Chandler with Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow said 1-in-5 high school students uses e-cigarettes – also called vaping. That’s a 78 percent increase in the past year.

With flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy, health experts believe e-cigarettes are specifically marketed to appeal to young people. (Photo from Pixabay, via PNS)

“We’re worried that all of the gains that we may have been making in terms of reduction of tobacco use may be lost as a result of burgeoning e-cigarette use,” Chandler said.

At a conference Today in Louisville, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow will release the results of recent teen focus-groups on e-cigarettes, which Chandler said are troubling.

“They’re saying that it’s not bad for you,” he said. “And they’re saying that ‘all their friends do it, so why shouldn’t they do it?’ That it is the cool thing to do.”

Chandler explained the large amounts of nicotine in e-cigarettes make them very addictive and can harm areas of the brain that control learning and impulse control. The vapor also contains chemicals and metals that can damage the lungs.

The focus group discussions suggest that many teachers and parents aren’t aware kids are using e-cigarettes, which don’t emit odors and are often as small as a flash drive. And Chandler noted the products are often marketed to youth.

“Flavoring of these vaping products is very attractive to young people, and flavors such as cotton candy and bubble gum are often used,” he said.

Prohibiting the sale of flavored liquids for e-cigarettes will be among the policy measures discussed at today’s event, along with adding vaping to all local smoke-free ordinances. And Chandler contends there should be a specific tax on e-cigarettes.

“We had e-cigarettes included in our last effort to tax cigarette products, but the e-cigarettes were removed at the last minute from the legislation in the last session,” he said. “And we don’t even know why. It just disappeared.”

He said he thinks state leaders and communities should also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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