Coalition Rally Fills Capitol Rotunda: Speakers Urge Lawmakers to Help Reduce Youth E-Cig Use
More than 100 Kentucky students, parents, teachers, health advocates and healthcare providers joined the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow rally in Frankfort on January 14, asking legislators to help address skyrocketing youth e-cigarette use, often called "vaping," which has jeopardized decades of progress in reducing tobacco use among adolescents and teens.
"Middle schooler vaping in Kentucky has quadrupled since 2017, and so has daily vaping among Kentucky high school students," said Ben Chandler, chair of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow. "We must build on the success of our 2019 tobacco-free schools bill by taxing e-cigs, making it illegal for those under age 21 to buy tobacco and investing more in education to prevent tobacco use in the first place, before kids get addicted for life."
Senator Ralph Alvarado said his bill, Senate Bill 56, would raise the minimum legal age for purchasing tobacco products in Kentucky from 18 to 21 (to comply with a new federal law), and remove status offense and other penalties in Kentucky statutes for youth who purchase, use or possess tobacco products.
"My bill will reduce youth access to tobacco products, slash the number of kids who start using tobacco before age 18, decrease youth tobacco addiction, and lead to lower tobacco use rates overall as these teens grow and mature into adulthood," Sen. Alvarado said. His bill passed the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare by a unanimous vote on Jan. 15 and is headed to the Senate floor.
The Coalition also wants e-cigarettes to be taxed like cigarettes. House Bill 32, introduced by Rep. Jerry T. Miller and co-sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, would add a state excise tax on e-cig sales that is equivalent to the current tax on cigarettes.
"Taxing e-cigarettes is the most effective step we can take to reduce youth vaping," Chandler said.
The Coalition's third legislative priority for 2020 is increasing the public health budget for tobacco-use prevention and cessation programs in Kentucky. In fiscal year 2020, Kentucky's $3.3 million prevention and cessation budget is just 1/83rd of the nearly $280 million that the tobacco industry spends on marketing annually in Kentucky. Moreover, Kentucky takes in nearly $490 million in revenues from tobacco sales and tobacco company payments to the state. The Coalition is seeking a $10 million budget for the public health department to support the Quit Line and other cessation programs, and to educate youth about the dangers of vaping. No bill has been introduced yet; such a measure would have to be included in the state budget bill being developed in the legislature.
Abby Hefner, a sophomore at McCracken County High School, said she was offered a Juul e-cigarette at her first high school football game. She got addicted imme-diately, she said. Even though she was worried about disappoint-ing her parents and getting in more trouble, she bought three more devices before she finally went away for the summer and quit cold turkey. Hefner said she still has trouble saying "no" when she is offered an e-cigarette.
"Lawmakers need to hear loud and clear from their constituents about the youth vaping epidemic," Chandler said, urging attendees to contact their state senators and representatives in support of the three initiatives. "If we're going to turn the tide on this epidemic, legislators need to change Kentucky's tobacco age restriction law, add a tax on e-cigs to reduce adolescent and teen access, and boost the budget for educating kids and teens about the serious risks of vaping."
Kentucky Funds Another E-Cigarette Quit Program for Youth
Kentucky has announced another free program to help residents quit vaping, this one focused on addicted e-cigarette users who are ages 13 to 24.
"This is Quitting" is a nationwide texting service developed by the Truth Initiative with input from youth who tried or were successful at quitting e-cigarettes. The Kentucky Department for Public Health is making it available free of charge in Kentucky Participants should text KENTUCKY to 88709 to enroll in the program, which provides up to nine weeks of coaching.
This is Quitting supplements another program focused on youth and announced in November 2019 called My Life My Quit, and a third program for Kentuckians of all ages called Quit Now Kentucky. For more information about any of these programs, see the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Quitting Tobacco webpage.
FDA Announces Partial Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes
In an attempt to prevent youth vaping, flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarettes will be banned in the United States starting February 4, 2020, under a new policy issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this month. Many public health groups have criticized the new policy for not going far enough. Among the concerns:
• The ban exempts menthol flavored products, which are very popular with youth. More than half of the youth who use e-cigarettes use mint or menthol, which cools and numbs the throat and reduces the harsh taste and irritation from nicotine. Moreover, the evidence shows that kids will switch to another flavor if any are left on the market - that's what happened when Juul removed all but its tobacco, mint and menthol flavors in November 2018.
• It only applies to closed, cartridge-based e-cigarettes, not to e-liquids. The most egregious kid-friendly flavors are available primarily as e-liquids, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids.
• The policy also exempts refillable pod systems, such as the Suorin and Smok, which are the most popular e-cigarette brands among youth after Juul.
Federal Tobacco 21 Law Passes
Retailers and online stores selling tobacco products are prohibited from selling tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 under a new law enacted as part of a year-end federal spending bill that passed Congress in December. (See U.S. Food and Drug Administration information.)
Kentucky statutes need to be updated to reflect the new federal law, and to remove status offense and other penalties for minors who purchase, use or possess tobacco products. A bill introduced by Kentucky State Senator Ralph Alvarado would accomplish this.
Partners and Member Events
2020 Children's Advocacy Day
Kentucky Youth Advocates
Thurs., Jan. 23, 9 a.m., Capitol Rotunda
2020 Kentucky Nurses Day
Kentucky Nurses Association
Tues., Feb. 4, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Capitol
2020 Kentucky Advocacy Day
American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American College of Cardiology-Kentucky Chapter, and Kentucky Radon Association
Thurs., Feb. 13, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Annex 346
Cancer Action Day
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Thurs., Feb. 20
More details to come. Register here.
Tobacco Control Spring Conference
April 14-15, 2020, in Lexington
Save April 14-15, 2020, on your calendar now for the annual Tobacco Control Spring Conference, brought to you by the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy and the Kentucky Department for Public Health's Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. Next year's conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Coldstream in Lexington. Contact Amanda Bucher, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smoke-Free Advocate of the Year Nominations
The Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy is seeking nominations for the 2020 David B. Stevens, M.D., Smoke-free Advocate of the Year award. Nominations are due Feb. 6, 2020. Submit nominees here.
Members/Partners in the News
Health Advocates Call for Action to Stem Youth E-Cig Use
Health Advocates Push for Vaping Tax
High School Student Shares her Vaping Addiction Story
Legislative Leaders Talk Favorably of Taxing E-Cigs
Smoke-free advocates rally at state Capitol for three measures to decrease soaring youth use of electronic cigarettes
Youth Vaping Continues to Rise
Kentucky Must Comply with Federal Tobacco 21 Legislation to End the Epidemic of Teen E-Cig Use
Kentucky business owners and health advocates support new age limit for buying tobacco products
Want to join us?
Does your organization want to help make Kentucky healthier by reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke? Click here to join our Coalition. Or email Alexa Kerley, email@example.com. It's FREE to join!