Kentucky continues to make strides towards reducing the youth and teen use of e-cigarette products. The Kentucky House took an important step by passing Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Ralph Alvarado, which codifies in state law the legal purchase age of tobacco products to 21 and removes penalties for youth under age 21 for purchase, use, and possession of tobacco products. This Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priority bill was just signed into law by Governor Beshear!
As the Kentucky legislature continues to work on their biennium budget, there are two additional proven solutions to protect Kentucky children and teens from e-cigarettes and other tobacco harmful products – enacting a tax on e-cigarettes equal to the current tax on cigarettes and investing in tobacco use prevention and cessation programming.
Currently, e-cigarettes are the only tobacco product not subject to a state excise tax. As the state budget and revenue bill goes through conference committee negotiations, we believe establishing an e-cigarette tax equal to the tax on cigarettes will get these harmful products out of the hands of our kids, reduce future healthcare costs, and provide revenue for the state budget. Additionally, due to the increased use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students in Kentucky, investing in tobacco prevention and cessation resources is critical and highly effective way to tackle social norms, help target youth tobacco users to quit, and prevent tobacco use initiation among the general public and specific populations such as youth.
Cigarettes have always been present in our everyday lives, seeing packages at a store or an individual smoking nearby. Since 1984, the packages have featured a warning about the harmful effects of smoking on yourself and those around you. This warning has been written in words and is often overlooked. Although smoking rates in the United States have dropped dramatically since then, there is still a need to reduce smoking even further. In Kentucky, smoking rates among adults and youth are the second highest in the nation.
Smoking can lead to a number of health issues including cancer, decreased blood flow and complications of existing health conditions. Also, we know smoking cigarettes impacts those around the smoker, including in public places, as well as children and family members in the home. The FDA has issued a new rule in an effort to further emphasize these harmful effects, right on the package. This rule will require that, beginning in July 2021, all cigarette packages to feature a graphic warning for everyone to see.
These warnings will feature images of children and adults suffering from the effects of second-hand smoke and effects on smokers’ health. An example of these warnings is shown below. The new rule to require graphic warnings on cigarette packaging is an important step in the effort to reduce smoking rates in Kentucky and around the country.