By Hannah Abdon

I’m an 11th grader that has grown up in a farming community in Northern Kentucky where tobacco has been strongly promoted especially towards young people. While driving to my own high school, I pass four different stores that advertise tobacco products in their storefronts. Most of these advertisements are very close to my school.

On television, many advertisements that I see depict Juuls in a positive light. They do this by comparing them to cigarettes and making e-cigarettes seem like the “better option.” Or, recently, I’ve seen advertisements promoting “healthy vitamins” being included in dangerous tobacco products; making them seem to be healthy.

Big tobacco industries have been all too prone to using youthful people to display their products and making it seem like e-cigarettes are the way to popularity. Many Juuls and their packaging have an intentional youthful appearance by using bright colors and creative flavors in order to appeal especially to younger audiences.

Many peers are willing to post pictures of themselves using nicotine/tobacco products to make themselves look “cool.” New tools on social media allow teens to block parents from seeing what they post on their stories; this allows them to post without fear of being seen by someone who might get them in trouble.

Personally, I have seen lots of these types of posts in my middle school and high school years. Tobacco advertising is virtually everywhere we look. This is why we need special laws to protect youth from serious risks — like using tobacco. It is necessary to change the image of smoking and vaping to help reduce youth tobacco use.

My peers and other youth need to understand how detrimental these products can be to our minds, bodies, and overall health. Boone County currently doesn’t have an indoor smoke-free law, but perhaps some communities in my county would be willing to do something else to protect kids — like maybe putting up clear health warnings on tobacco displays or by keeping vape shops from opening up near schools or playgrounds.

I hope that the legislature will pass the local tobacco control bills (House Bill 147 and Senate Bill 81) so that my community and others in Kentucky can try new ways to prevent youth from vaping and other tobacco use.

TAKE ACTION: Kentucky House Bill 147 and Senate Bill 81 have been introduced and, if passed, would empower local officials to take additional tobacco control measures to protect health and reduce health care costs in their communities. Send a message now urging your state Senator and Representative to support House Bill 147 and Senate Bill 81!

Hannah Adbon is a high school junior from Northern Kentucky. Hannah shared these comments at a recent press conference hosted by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow — read the press release and view the press conference recording. Hannah also spoke at the recent Coalition for a Smoke-Free Coalition Virtual Rally Day — watch a recording of the rally.

Learn more about the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priority to expand local control to curb youth tobacco use and improve health.