The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 30, 2019 1:00 am

State launches effort to slow vaping

$2.1 million ad blitz to target teenagers through social media

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana leaders announced a multifaceted prevention program against teen vaping Thursday that will include an education piece for students, parents and educators as well as a media blitz against e-cigarettes.

“Part of it is just the awareness that what we are peddling and what we are sharing and getting people addicted to is harmful so this is a full court press and it starts today,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

But taxing vape products and changing the age to buy them are discussions for a later day, he said.

Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box held a press conference at Fishers High School surrounded by teenagers. National research shows that nearly 40% of high school students have vaped in the past year,

The 2018 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey shows that vaping has increased nearly 400% in Indiana high school students since 2012. Data also now shows that vaping often leads to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Box promised a media blitz, which is estimated to cost $2.1 million.

“We are going to make sure we touch every bit of social media because that is exactly what Juul has done and the e-cigarette people have done so we have to match that,” she said.

Juul is the most popular vaping product.

Indiana is using the CATCH My Breath best-practices youth e-cigarette and Juul prevention program developed by the University of Texas. It provides up-to-date information to teachers, parents and health professionals to give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

Box said one Juul has as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes, and she noted that hundreds of youths nationwide have been hospitalized with severe lung issues due to vaping. Twenty-four of those were in Indiana.

Holcomb said he supports parity in terms of taxing vape products in a similar manner as traditional cigarettes. But efforts in the legislature failed this year.

“I'm sure we'll revisit this. Nicotine is nicotine,” he said. “I need to take another run at that, whether this session or next session.”

Advocates have also pushed to increase the age of buying cigarettes and vaping products from 18 to 21.

Holcomb said he supports U.S. Sen. Todd Young's efforts to do this on the federal level but was noncommittal about whether Indiana should act sooner.

“It's part of discussions I'm having right now with my friends in the legislature,” he said. “We will be looking toward this as session approaches.”

His legislative agenda usually comes out in late November of December.

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