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Indiana launches effort to curb youth vaping amid health concerns

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The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has announced a three-pronged strategy to reduce vaping among Indiana youth.

According to the 2018 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey (IYTS), vaping has increased more than 300 percent since 2012, and recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) link vaping to more than 200 severe respiratory illnesses nationwide, including at least 24 in Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG, unveiled the plan this week. Following an analysis of the new data, ISDH will increase awareness of the risks associated with e-cigarettes. The plan includes an educational toolkit for schools, parents and students, a youth-focused text-to-quit program and a statewide vaping public awareness campaign to focus both on prevention and cessation.

“The number of new young Hoosiers vaping is alarming, and that’s why today’s announcement is critical to the health of our people,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Under Dr. Box’s leadership, we will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to curb youth vaping by educating the public on health risks so that fewer youth start using e-cigarettes, while also providing resources to those who want to quit.”

The IYTS is a school-based survey of students in grades 6 through 12 that asks about all types of tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, access to tobacco products, knowledge and attitudes, media and advertising, school curriculum and tobacco cessation. The IYTS found that vaping has increased 387 percent among high school students and 358 percent among middle school students since 2012 and that between 2016 and 2018, nearly 35,000 more Indiana students used e-cigarettes.

The U.S. Surgeon General has labeled the rising use of e-cigarettes among youth an epidemic and called for action to protect young people from the dangers of nicotine addiction. Earlier today, the Surgeon General’s office announced that according to its records, 30 percent of youth who regularly vape also use marijuana.

“Vaping among Indiana’s youth is at an all-time high, and that’s putting thousands of Hoosiers in harm’s way of this epidemic,” Box stated. “Many young people think vaping is harmless, but one e-cigarette can contain the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. As the number of hospitalizations rises, it’s clear that we need to help youth and parents better understand the health risks of these products before they become the next generation of smokers.”

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among young people, in part because they come in a variety of flavors, such as mint, candy, fruit and chocolate. According to the IYTS, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among Indiana youth. The 2018 survey included questions about USB-type products, such as the popular JUUL, to help health officials better understand the current use of these products. The data show that while nearly 19 percent of high school youth reported current e-cigarette use, 24 percent reported JUUL use. About 22 percent of both high school and middle school students who currently use e-cigarettes also use traditional cigarettes, the survey found.

To view the full survey and learn more vaping, visit vapefreeindiana.isdh.in.gov.