A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) found that nearly 1 in 2 young adults ages 18 to 29 said they had used an e-cigarette. Currently, 23.4% of Kentucky high school students say they currently use e-cigarettes, which is double the national average.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used to inhale vaporized; this is often referred to as “vaping”. Manufacturers have specifically targeted youth by creating flavored products, such as cookies ‘n cream and peanut butter cup, to mask the tobacco taste. And research shows that more than 80% of kids who have ever used tobacco products started with something flavored. Manufacturers have also targeted youth through advertising in magazines, providing free samples at youth-oriented events, and through social media. One study found more than 70,000 tweets about e-cigarettes were made over a two-month period.

E-cigarettes contain varying levels of nicotine, so the long-term health effects of these products are still unclear. However, it’s important to remember that nicotine is highly addictive and can cause lasting damage to adolescent brain development, among other negative health outcomes.

There are solutions that we can enact to prevent this growing trend from continuing to impact Kentucky’s youth. The first solution is increasing the tobacco tax by at least $1. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that increasing the state’s tobacco tax will prevent more than 23,000 kids from becoming adults who smoke. For additional information, please visit the Smoke Free Tomorrow Coalition website.

Another solution is supporting smoke-free campus initiatives. Research shows that 75% of adults strongly favor tobacco-free campuses, however, less than 40% of Kentucky school districts have Tobacco-Free policies. For information on what tobacco-free schools look like and how to advocate for your local school district to become 100% tobacco free, visit the Tobacco-Free Schools website. To learn more about two bills (SB 51 and HB 318) that would make public school property free from all forms of tobacco to protect students from secondhand smoke and from being exposed to tobacco use, check out “Other Legislative Items” on our bill tracker.