A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Dr. O’dell Owens: Nicotine is always unsafe for youth; we must be diligent in protecting them from tobacco

Smoking in the United States continues to decline, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 15.5% of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2016, a decrease of 5% since 2005.

Smoke-free policies are now common across our region.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Dr. O’dell Owens

Tobacco continues to affect the health of many in our region. Many think they are safer by using devices such as e-cigarettes. However, exposure of any kind to nicotine is concerning.

E-cigarettes use a battery and a heating element to deliver nicotine vapor to the user. Using such a device is known as “vaping.”

Data from the Ohio Health Issues and Kentucky Health Issues polls show that 28% of Ohio and Kentucky adults have used an e-cigarette. Even more troubling is that half of Ohioans and 48% of Kentuckians age 18 to 29 have tried an e-cigarette.

Research is underway to better understand the health consequences of vaping, but we do know that these devices deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development.

We need to be diligent in protecting our youth from all forms of tobacco. Some ways to take action:

·  Talk directly to children about the risks of tobacco use of any kind. Know if your child’s friends use tobacco.

·  If you use tobacco, try to quit.

·  Support businesses that don’t sell tobacco to kids. Visit restaurants and other places that are tobacco-free.

· Be sure your schools and all school events (i.e., parties, sporting events, etc.) are tobacco-free.

Interact for Health has made reducing tobacco use one of its priorities. To learn more, visit the website.

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