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Health advocates call for action to stem youth e-cig use

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Public health advocates rallied at Kentucky’s Capitol on Tuesday to push for legislation aimed at reducing smoking and e-cigarette use among young people.

A group called the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow urged Kentucky lawmakers to impose an excise tax on the sale of e-cigarettes. The bill would tax e-cigarettes at 27.5% of their wholesale price, which is equivalent to the state’s $1.10-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The measure would generate an estimated $34 million in its first year.

Another measure backed by the group would raise the minimum legal age in Kentucky to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. It’s similar to a new federal law championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The coalition also called for increased state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.

The statehouse rally featured students, health advocates and business leaders.

“Kentuckians broadly support the measures that research tells us will curb the youth e-cigarette epidemic, which continues to expand at alarming rates in the commonwealth,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

State health officials last week announced Kentucky’s first probable vaping-related death. The person who died was a male in his late 20s, officials said.