In Conversation

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The number of young people in Kentucky using electronic cigarettes — vaping — is increasing, but health experts offered solutions as part of WFPL’s In Conversation Friday.

Host Rick Howlett discussed the popularity and health consequences of using electronic cigarettes with guests:

  • Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President Ben Chandler
  • University of Louisville Professor of Medicine Dr. Daniel Conklin

Conklin said many young people don’t know how e-cigarettes affect their health.  According to a study cited by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the number of youth vaping in Kentucky doubled from 2016 to 2018 among 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders who were surveyed.

“The manufacturer of these things [e-liquids and e-juices] is completely unregulated,” Conklin said. “Juul makes a very small pod about the size of your thumbnail that contains the equivalent nicotine of 20 cigarettes.”

Research by the JAMA Network shows teens using e-cigarettes and cigarette alternatives are more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes later in life when compared to teens who never used those alternatives.

The rate of young people smoking cigarettes decreased between 2000 and 2018 and there’s anecdotal evidence that some use e-cigarettes to kick the habit. But Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President Ben Chandler said there’s no evidence to link the decrease in cigarette smoking with the surging popularity of e-cigarettes.

Chandler said youth vaping and tobacco-use rates can be curbed by spreading awareness about e-cigarettes and imposing laws on the industry.

“Our taxes on traditional cigarette and traditional tobacco products are too low,” Chandler said, adding that a tax on vaping products could decrease use among young people. “There are a lot of different strategies available that can be used to impact the rate of usage.”

Another possible solution, Chandler said, is raising the minimum age for buying tobacco products. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell introduced a bill this week to raise the national minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about Louisville’s parks system.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.