Vaping, a trend among nation’s youths, is public health epidemic

Published 11:17 am Friday, May 31, 2019

By Julie Rague Adams

Guest Columnnist

If you’re a mom like me, you’re likely alarmed over the recent spike in vaping among teens.

Email newsletter signup

Unfortunately, vaping has become a trend for our youth. But as parents, we know it’s really a public health epidemic. Here in Kentucky, almost half of high school students — with developing brains that are extremely vulnerable to harmful nicotine — have tried vaping.

As the Kentucky Senate Majority Caucus chair, I’ve fought to keep tobacco products away from our kids. That’s why I was proud to stand with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he announced his plan to introduce federal legislation to raise the nationwide age to purchase all tobacco products, including vaping devices, from 18 to 21.

Kentucky leads the nation in cancer mortality and has the highest number of cancer cases linked to smoking. The surge of teenage vaping will only make those statistics worse. If we stop our kids from starting this deadly habit, we can prevent some of the health problems associated with smoking.

Awareness campaigns are important in warning teens about the dangers of cigarettes, but a majority of young people don’t realize their vaping devices contain nicotine.

When they vape, our children are inhaling hazardous aerosols and training their brains to depend on the chemicals. Their “trendy” habit can lead to lifelong health problems, hinder physical and mental development, and even make them more likely to become addicted to other substances.

Allowing 18-year-olds to legally purchase vaping devices creates an environment where these addictive products can be shared with younger peers. A startling number of middle schoolers even tried vaping last year.

Because 15-year-olds aren’t likely to hang around 21-year-olds, Sen. McConnell’s legislation would help keep dangerous nicotine out of teenage hands.

This year in the General Assembly, my colleagues and I led the charge to ban all tobacco products from Kentucky schools. In the last state budget, we also increased the cigarette tax to make smoking more expensive.

These efforts mark a monumental shift toward improving the health of our commonwealth, and the state legislature is using every resource it can to help Kentuckians break the habit. McConnell’s federal legislation is a vital boost to our work to save lives in our state.

Momentum is building for this effort across the country. Twelve states have passed laws to raise their tobacco age limits to 21.

This issue is personal for me, and I’m proud of my long history working on it.

While on the Metro Council, I was a leading advocate of Louisville’s Smoke-Free Ordinance. I’m proud to support Sen. McConnell as he takes the next steps to protect our children.

With McConnell’s leadership position in the U.S. Senate, I am confident we can deliver results for Kentucky.

No mother should be forced to watch her son or daughter grow up to fight addiction or cancer. Every time we prevent teens from vaping, we increase the likelihood they avoid it throughout their lives.

By raising the legal age to purchase tobacco, we’re giving our kids the chance they need to develop without a dependence on harmful chemicals like nicotine.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) is the Senate Majority Caucus chair.