(FRANKFORT, Ky - January 30, 2019) Today the American Lung Association released its annual "State of Tobacco Control" report, and while there was a bit of good news for Kentucky, overall the state fared poorly in the effort to reduce and prevent tobacco use.
To gain some ground in 2019, the Association calls on state legislators to pass tobacco-free schools legislation, an initiative strongly supported by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow.
Introduced in both the House and Senate chambers in Kentucky, the legislation would prohibit the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and all other vapor or alternative nicotine products, on school grounds, in school vehicles, and in other vehicles while on school property.
"Creating tobacco-free environments for Kentucky's students statewide is especially important given the explosive increase in youth e-cigarette use," said American Lung Association Advocacy Director, Shannon Baker.
Nationwide, high school use of these products increased 78 percent and middle school use increased 48 percent over the last year, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to declare an "epidemic." While 2018 data is not yet available in Kentucky, state statistics showed even higher e-cigarette use rates by Kentucky youth compared to nationwide rates in 2017.
Ben Chandler, the coalition's chair and the president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, stressed, "We're coming up on half of Kentucky's school districts that already have enacted these policies to reduce tobacco use by teens and to protect them from the significant health dangers of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol. Now is the time to extend those protections statewide, before we lose any more ground to youth e-cigarette use."
Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug, and the FDA has found a variety of cancer-causing chemicals in these products such as formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible lung damage. Moreover, youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become adult smokers.
The Coalition for A Smoke-Free Tomorrow joins the American Lung Association in strong support of tobacco-free schools legislation and calls on Kentucky's General Assembly to act swiftly to enact this important law to protect student health across the Commonwealth.
# # #
About the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow
The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow is committed to its mission of improving Kentucky's health by protecting Kentuckians from secondhand smoke and other tobacco emissions, and by reducing the high rate of smoking and tobacco use in the Commonwealth. For more information, please visit www.smokefreetomorrow.org.
The Coalition is led by representatives of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Baptist Health, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Humana, Kentucky Cancer Foundation, Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Council of Churches, Kentucky Equal Justice Center, Kentucky Health Collaborative, Kentucky Health Departments Association, Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Medical Association, Kentucky Nurses Association, Kentucky School Boards Association, Kentucky Voices for Health, and Kentucky Youth Advocates. Other partners and members of the Coalition represent a broad array of more than 180 groups, including Kentucky business leaders, health advocates, health care providers and payers, educators, and faith community leaders.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth