Building strong families and communities is the key to unlocking the potential of our next generation. Unfortunately, Kentucky has the second highest percentage of adult smokers and is among the highest in the nation for youth who use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vapes.
We know that investing in prevention and cessation is an important step to reduce these rates, improve Kentucky’s health outcomes, and save Kentucky health care costs by averting tobacco related illnesses, but there are additional steps we can take at both the state and federal level to support these efforts.
Everyone, from policymakers to advocates to educators to parents, needs to be involved in the effort to keep vaping products away from our children. One big call to action is to increase investments to ensure coordinated, comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation efforts across the state to tackle social norms, help tobacco users quit, and prevent tobacco use initiation among the general public and special populations, such as youth.
At the state level, Kentucky Youth Advocates and our partners are continuing our work to reduce the use of tobacco products among youth and prevent the next generation from ever becoming addicted to nicotine. Right now, Kentucky cities and counties are prohibited from making decisions about the use, display, sale, and distribution of tobacco products by a state law that has been in place for more than 25 years.
Repealing this law would allow for local cities and counties to better respond to their community’s needs and reduce youth tobacco use. Although this change would not mandate any changes at the local level, communities would be able to take actions such as creating a buffer zone to prohibit the sale of tobacco products near schools and parks or limit the use of tobacco product advertising in stores.
Learn more about this statewide effort and how advocates can get involved with the Nix the Next campaign.
Federally, we have seen changes in recent years to limit the tobacco products that are on the market. The most recent decision from the FDA rejected thousands of applications for e-cigarettes and related products from entering the market. However, the FDA also delayed a decision on regulating or outright banning flavored e-cigarette and vaping devices like Juul products, the most popular brand of e-cigarettes.
Additionally, as part of the Build Back Better Act, the federal government is proposing an increased excise taxes on tobacco products, including the first ever federal tax on e-cigarettes. We know a proven way to keep these harmful products out of the hands of our youngest Kentuckians, who are more price sensitive, as well as pregnant women who are also vulnerable to the harmful effects, is to tax these nicotine-packed products. The tobacco tax provisions within the Build Back Better Act builds upon the strides our General Assembly made during the 2020 legislative session in reducing the youth and teen use of e-cigarette products by increasing our state cigarette tax and establishing an e-cigarette tax at the state level.
The reality is that nearly 90 percent of tobacco users first try a tobacco product by age 18. But, if they did not start using nicotine by age 26, they are likely to never start. With the health and future of Kentucky’s children on the line, the stakes couldn’t be higher in Washington and Frankfort.
At our Advocate Virtual Forum on October 27th, we discussed the state of tobacco use among youth throughout Kentucky, as well as data, policy, and state budget opportunities to prevent and mitigate nicotine and tobacco use – including the new Nix the Next campaign – with Hannah Abdon, high school senior from Boone County; Allison Adams of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; Betsy Clemons of the Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce; and, Shannon Smith of American Heart Association. Watch a recording of the forum HERE or listen on our Making Kids Count podcast HERE.