Students, educators, and lawmakers on Tuesday addressed the record rates of teen JUULing and vaping as an impetus for passing a tobacco-free schools law in Kentucky in 2019.
JUULs, a brand of e-cigarettes, are being used by teens in record numbers, including one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers, Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow Chair Ben Chandler said at a rally at the Frankfort capitol.
Chandler said he believed there was momentum in Kentucky to pass a statewide tobacco free schools bill in 2019.
House Bill 11 and Senate Bar 27 would bar the use of tobacco products on and in property owned by Kentucky school districts. The law would apply to all persons at all times while on campus, including vehicles owned by the district where they travel and vehicles while they are on school property.
It also would apply to events on school-owned property 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
“Tobacco-free schools policies set a healthy example for students by denormalizing tobacco use at school, where our children and teens spend a third of their waking hours,” said Rep. Kim Moser-R, of Taylor Mill, who introduced House Bill 11. “In one JUUL we have about the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarette. That is crazy.”
“Most tobacco use starts while kids are still school-aged, a time when their brains are still developing and nicotine can hinder that development and cause lasting damage,” said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Republican, of Winchester, who introduced Senate Bill 27.
Alvarado said its not true that e-cigarettes are just flavored vapor.
The rally was organized by the Coalition for a Smoke Free Tomorrow which has made a statewide tobacco-free schools law a high priority.
“We have to act now to recover progress in reducing teen tobacco use that we’ve already lost due to the sudden explosion in teen vaping,” said Chandler.
“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.”
Chandler also is president/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which comprises about 180 organizations across the state working to reduce tobacco use in Kentucky.
According to the federal Food and Drug Administration 90 percent of tobacco use starts by age 18. Kentucky’s youth tobacco use rates significantly exceed national averages. The 2017 Youth Behavior Risk Survey for Kentucky found that 26 percent of high school students — compared to 19.5 percent nationally — and 7.6 percent of middle schools students used a tobacco product in 2017.
Also in 2017, 14.1 percent of Kentucky high school students, compared to 13.2 percent nationwide, and 3.9 percent of middle school students used e-cigarettes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest nationwide numbers for 2018 e-cigarette use in November. The agency said one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers are now using e-cigarettes in the United States. These numbers represent a 78 percent increase for high schoolers and a 48 percent increase for middle schoolers in less than a year.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called this explosion in youth e-cigarette use an epidemic, a news release said.
Ted Kwong, a spokesman for JUUL Labs said in response Tuesday that it “shares a common goal with policy makers, regulators, parents, school officials and community stakeholders — preventing youth from initiating on nicotine. “
He added the company is ”committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”
”As we said before, our intent was never to have youth use JUUL products.“
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