Strategies to reduce smoking and, more recently, vaping continue to be Indiana Chamber policy priorities. In late August, we were encouraged that the state of Indiana has taken note of the vaping crisis impacting our middle school and high school students.

Governor Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health have unveiled an awareness campaign, ways for teens to get assistance and a toolkit to be rolled out for students, educators and parents.

Any spotlight on the crisis is welcome and especially needed in wake of the scary health problems coming to light with e-cigarette usage, culminating with the first death reported today in Indiana.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana’s overall e-cigarette usage (vaping every day or some days) ranks in the three highest in the nation. The 2018 Indiana State Department of Health survey found that over the last six years, e-cigarette usage skyrocketed by a whopping 387% among high school students and nearly as much among middle schoolers. That translates to one in five high school students vaping – one in five! In terms of actual numbers, the state survey found that 35,000 more teens vaped in 2018 than in 2016.

The Chamber has said all along that students have been the real target market for e-cigarettes. Just look at the marketing tools and flavors available. It’s geared toward youth and is getting teenagers hooked on a drug that could have devastating effects on them throughout their life.

With the new Indiana-focused statistics, we are hopeful that the Governor and state legislative leaders will seek and take policy action in the 2020 session by raising the legal smoking/vaping age to 21. That’s likely the most impactful tactic to curb teen vaping. Ideally, that would take place in conjunction with a tax on the vaping product itself.

As State Health Commissioner Kris Box said in an Indy Star article, “Our job is to keep our kids out of harm’s way.”

And to truly do that will take a robust approach that includes public policy changes.

Resource: Mike Ripley at (317) 264-6883 or email: [email protected]