Tobacco Free Florida targets teen vaping as usage skyrockets

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Tobacco Free Florida is calling teen vaping an epidemic, and it’s launching a new campaign, hoping to discourage youth from using e-cigarettes.

In 2018, one in four Florida high-schoolers admitted to vaping.

The staggering 58% increase among the youth is contrasted by adult vaping rates, which have remained fairly constant around 4%.

“So this is a youth issue,” said Bureau Chief of Tobacco Free Florida, Laura Corbin.

Corbin says the same tobacco companies that marketed to teens in the past are now using the same methods to promote e-cigs today.

“Juul, the most popular brand among the youth comes in a variety of flavors,” said Corbin. "They have high amounts of nicotine. Nicotine exposure can be harmful to youth brain development."

Beginning Monday, as part of Tobacco Free Florida Week, the state agency is launching a new digital media campaign called 'E-Epidemic'.

Corbin says similar campaigns helped reduce smoking rates among the youth.

“Our message is simple: vaping is not safe for kids, teens, or young adults,” said Corbin.

Health experts with the American Cancer Society say education is a good first step, but they’re also pushing to raise the age for purchasing vaping products from 18 to 21.

“People under 18 are still able to get tobacco products, but there are 18-year-olds in high school right? So seniors in high school can give the freshman, sophomores, and juniors those tobacco products, but there aren't a lot of 21-year-olds in high school,” said Matt Jordan with the American Cancer Society.

The Tobacco 21 Act, which would raise the age for both e-cigs and traditional tobacco products, is moving quickly through the Legislature.

Jordan says there are some issues with the legislation in its current form. The House includes preemption langue that could take away local government's ability to set restrictions on how tobacco companies can advertise in their communities. The Senate also includes a carve-out for cigars.

The bill is ready for a floor vote in the House and gets its final committee hearing in the Senate Tuesday.

To learn more about the Tobacco Free Florida campaign, click here for statistics, data, and information on how to quit.