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Data from CDC shows 6.2 million youths now use tobacco products; 85 percent use e-cigarettes

NKyTribune staff

Data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 6.2 million middle and high school students are using tobacco products, and that 5.3 million of them (85 percent) are using e-cigarettes, or “vapes.” 

The report states tobacco product use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.

The CDC emphasizes that preventing tobacco product use among youths is critical to decreasing morbidity and mortality because:

*Nearly all tobacco product use begins during youth or young adulthood; approximately nine in 10 adult cigarette smokers start before age 18 years (1–3) and

*In recent years, tobacco products have evolved to include various smoked, smokeless, and electronic products.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), conducted periodically during 1999–2009 and annually since 2011, provides national data on estimates of tobacco product use to support the design, implementation, and evaluation of comprehensive youth tobacco prevention and control programs and to inform tobacco regulatory activities in the United States (4).

NYTS is the only nationally representative survey of U.S. middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (grades 9–12) students that focuses exclusively on tobacco product use and associated factors.

The CDC report uses findings from the 2019 NYTS to describe the prevalence of youth tobacco product use and selected associated factors, including flavored tobacco product use, reasons for use, exposure to tobacco product marketing, curiosity and susceptibility, harm perceptions, urges to use tobacco products, and quitting behaviors.

These findings can be used by public health professionals, health care providers, policymakers, educators, parents, and others who influence youths to prevent and reduce tobacco product use among U.S. youths.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has been at the forefront in the effort to raise awareness of concerns regarding youth smoking and vaping. Foundation president Ben Chandler recently joined  Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill and Stephanie Vogel, of NKY Health at an NKY Chamber forum to address those concerns.  The forum was hosted by St. Elizabeth Healthcare CEO Garren Colvin.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky released the following statement in response to this information:

“The youth vaping epidemic continues to threaten the immediate and long-term health of adolescents and teens in this country by exposing them to nicotine and a host of other toxins that are known to damage their developing brains and bodies,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “More than one in four high school students and one in 10 middle schoolers are using e-cigarettes in 2019, and at least a quarter of them are likely addicted. Many of these kids would never have touched a cigarette. And too many of them think e-cigs are ‘cool,’ and that there’s little or no harm in even intermittent vaping. Neither is true. E-cigs are just as insidious for youth as any other tobacco product and it’s definitely not cool that the tobacco industry is using the same old tactics to manipulate a new generation of kids into becoming lifetime nicotine addicts.

“We have several policy answers and they’re proven to work. We need to tax vapes, at least the same amount as cigarettes. We need to raise the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21, and assess stiff penalties on retailers that sell to underage buyers.

“The tobacco industry outspends public health more than 73 to one on marketing campaigns, so we also need to invest more resources into youth prevention. Kentucky gets more than $500 million in revenues from tobacco, yet spends less than $4 million on prevention.

“And we should ban flavors – they’re a key reason kids are drawn to e-cigarettes, and their appeal to kids is why the FDA banned flavored cigarettes a decade ago. The only thing that’s changed is that the industry has found a new kind of tobacco product to dress up with kid-friendly flavors.”

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky www.healthy-ky.org  is focused on addressing the unmet health needs of Kentuckians.

Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth.

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