A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky lawmakers file anti-tobacco, vaping bills in advance of 2020 legislative session

Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Concern over the growing use of electronic cigarettes and tobacco products among young people in the Commonwealth has spurred lawmakers to pre-file bills for the 2020 legislative session aimed at making it more difficult for teens to get them.

The bills would raise the legal age for buying all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21, and would ban the sale of flavors in e-cigarettes.

In 2017, 26% of Kentucky high school students reported using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Kristy Young, Kentucky government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network says public outcry has put pressure on legislators.

“I would say that folks can reach out to their lawmakers, because lawmakers can help make a significant impact in terms of addressing the tobacco epidemic that we have on our hands in Kentucky,” says Young.

Some 43% of young adults in Kentucky tried e-cigarettes last year, according to the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, and the CDC says one in four Kentucky high school students uses some form of tobacco.

The bill requests were filed this week by State Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester, and Rep. Buddy Wheatley of Covington, both Republicans.

Lorri Malone is the director of communications for the American Cancer Society in Kentucky. She says now is the time to urge lawmakers to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, adding that it’s never too late to quit smoking or vaping.

“You don’t have to quit smoking in one day,” says Malone. “But we do know that when you quit smoking, your body immediately begins to recover. Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure will drop.”

Kentucky spends nearly $2 billion each year on healthcare costs related to smoking, according to the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow.

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