By Hannah Abdon

Picture this: It’s another beautiful high school day when, after lunch, you need to wash your hands and get ready for the last of your classes. Going into the bathrooms at a time like this is almost asking for trouble. You enter and, sure enough, you are greeted with about half a dozen freshmen standing around the sinks using juuls and other E-cigarettes. Unfortunately, they don’t respond too well to outsiders and you decide to leave. 

Sadly, this is a typical scenario for myself and many other high schoolers on a daily basis. One out of four Kentucky high schoolers use e-cigarettes. Let’s put that in perspective. Even if there are only four people in the bathroom at my school, one of them is likely to be using one of these harmful tobacco products. Which–it should be noted–is also endangering the other three people in the bathroom via second-hand smoke. 

High school times should result in good things only: good memories, a flood of opportunities, a few best friends and a high school diploma. The risk of premature death and cancer should not be on this list. However, it is estimated that around 119,000 kids under age 18 will ultimately die prematurely from tobacco use. 

Fortunately, advocates and government leaders have been working to improve Kentuckians’ high school experience by encouraging protective measures to be put in place. Senate Bill 166 would allow local authorities to regulate tobacco products that are aimed at youth in our communities. This bill, sponsored by Senator Wil Schroder, is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee.

So much hard work has been put in by community members, legislative champions, and advocates to support this effort. As a high school student, I feel like my voice on this topic is now being heard. I ask you, a fellow Kentuckian, to help us see this bill though all the way to the finish line. Right now, advocates can help build support for this bill in the Senate by calling their Senator and telling them why this bill is important for their community and needs to be heard in committee. 

If this bill sees its way into being a law, it could mean that my children and my community members will have a more positive high school experience and childhood than ever before. Laws like these are essential in creating a safer environment–one that will let this generation and the ones to come reach their full potential.

Hannah is high school senior from Northern Kentucky. Learn more about Nix the Next, a campaign to prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to nicotine. 

Learn more about the Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priority to expand local control to curb youth tobacco use and improve health. Stay up-to-date on the progress of SB 166 on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker