American Heart Association fights against teen vaping with new campaign

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Vaping is an increasing epidemic among teens, with e-cigarette use more than doubling among middle and high school students over the last few years. Millions of young people are vaping and facing a lifetime of potential addiction and other long-term health effects.

Together with presenting Heart Ball sponsor, White Greer & Maggard Orthodontics, the Central Kentucky American Heart Association is launching a social media campaign to help combat the teen vaping epidemic by educating people on the dangers of e-cigarettes.

The social media campaign, which will run on the AHA’s @HeartKentucky channels, will feature the stories of Will, a student athlete who started vaping at age 14, and Claire, who started vaping in 9th grade.

The organization will also highlight how many vape devices are designed to look like everyday objects like make-up, smart devices, pens, etc., making them hard for parents and teachers to spot. As part of the effort, people can dispose of their vaping devices at any of White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics 20 locations, with a goal of collecting 500 total vaping devices.

A new generation of youth has become addicted to nicotine and continues to do so as the country focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, 26.1 percent of Kentucky high school students used e-cigarettes, 6.4 percent used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip, and 7.9 smoked cigars, cigarillos or little cigars at least once within 30 days. Each year, 8,900 Kentucky adults die from smoking and 119,000 Kentucky kids under 18 will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.

“While vaping might seem safer than smoking cigarettes, the nicotine in vape pods can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and a narrowing of the arteries, as well as irritability, mood swings, anxiety, impulsivity and learning difficulties. That is why White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics is working alongside the American Heart Association to educate people throughout Central Kentucky on the harmful effects of vaping,” said Dr. Stan Ferguson of White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics.

More than 5 million teens nationwide now vape, double the number from just two years ago.

To address this issue, the American Heart Association supports public policies that regulate and tax e-cigarettes in the same way as all other tobacco products, such as clean indoor air laws; access to and coverage of evidence-based methods to quit tobacco use and nicotine addiction; tobacco excise taxes; raising the legal sales age for tobacco products to 21; and public education campaigns.

The American Heart Association believes the ongoing epidemic of e-cigarette use by teenagers can be effectively addressed by cities and counties. To empower cities and counties to address the vaping epidemic, the Association has urged Kentuckians and lawmakers to support House and Senate bills that would allow local lawmakers to govern the marketing and sale of tobacco products in their communities.

During the 2021 legislative session, Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams, and House Bill 147, sponsored by Representative Kim Moser, would restore the rights of cities and counties to govern the marketing and sale of tobacco products in their communities. This would allow communities to reduce tobacco use and associated costs, and improve health for their residents.

This legislation would give communities new tools to improve health, but does not require them to use those tools unless they have the support to do so. The bill would repeal a law that has been on the books since 1996, passed at the behest of Big Tobacco to prevent cities and counties from addressing tobacco use in their own communities. Repealing this law does not mandate that communities pass new ordinances; it only allows them the opportunity to do so if the community and elected officials see fit.

The tobacco industry spends almost $274.3 million annually on advertising in Kentucky resulting in $1.92 billion in annual spending from smoking-related illnesses ($589.8 million through Medicaid).

Historically, Kentucky has a history of allowing tobacco use to bill far more than it earns. Tobacco use costs Kentucky more than $1.92 billion in health care costs, yet it raised only $188.4 million in excise tax revenues in 2019.

Kentucky also has a lack of tobacco prevention and cessation funding, as the CDC recommends $56.4 million and Kentucky allocates only a fraction of that at $2 million. The American Heart Association supports increasing funding for statewide tobacco prevention and cessation efforts from $2 million in fiscal 2021 to $10 million in fiscal year 2022. This funding supports the statewide Quitline and local health department cessation programs, as well as multi-media and local prevention education programs.

The American Heart Association recently launched a youth-driven Tobacco Endgame site to empower young people to identify and reject the harmful impacts of tobacco in their communities. Tobacco Endgame will give youth the opportunity to connect directly with policymakers, learn how they can create healthier communities through public policy change and gain important experience as a community leader and voice for their peers.

People 13-and-older can join the Tobacco Endgame movement by texting ENDGAME to 46839 or visiting tobaccoendgame.yourethecure.org.

To learn more about the Central Kentucky American Heart Association’s anti-teen vaping campaign in partnership with White, Greer & Maggard Orthodontics, follow @HeartKentucky on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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