(LOUISVILLE, Ky – January 31, 2017) Nearly half of young adults in Kentucky ages 18-29 have tried an e-cigarette, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP). That’s up from 37 percent reported in last year’s KHIP, indicating e-cigarette use is on the rise.

More than 60 percent of current smokers have tried an e-cig, the report found, but even 9 percent of lifetime nonsmokers have tried one.

KHIP is an annual poll of Kentucky adults’ opinions on health issues; it is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.

“E-cigarettes can be a gateway to tobacco usage, especially for young people,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “We know they expose users to toxic chemicals, including nicotine, which long has been proven to be addictive and responsible for a wide range of health issues.

E-cigs often have flavor additives that are appealing to children and young adults, and some people who never smoked tobacco will pick up the habit after first trying these products.”

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report finding substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases the risk of ever using tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults.

“It is deeply troubling that there are still so many unanswered questions about the impact of e-cigarettes on public health despite the fact they have been on the market for a decade and are being used by millions of kids and adults,” says Amy Barkley, an advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This report and the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll results underscore the need for full and immediate FDA regulation of e-cigarettes so we can obtain the information necessary to provide the public and smokers with complete answers to these vital questions.”

Comparatively, adults in Kentucky have tried electronic cigarettes at a higher rate than the rest of the country. Nationwide in 2017, only 22 percent of adults had ever tried an e-cig, compared to 28 percent of all Kentucky adults. Older adults are less likely to try electronic vapor products.

“The bottom line is that, for kids, teens and adults who have never smoked, e-cigs and vapes are not a safe alternative to smoking,” said Robert Slaton, Chair of the Foundation’s Community Advisory Council. “Kentucky already faces debilitating health issues related to traditional tobacco products. Now we see that use of e-cigs is on the rise. The Foundation and other health organizations simply must continue to advocate for regulation of new evolutions of tobacco products that otherwise will create a whole new generation of Kentuckians dealing with tobacco-related illnesses.”

KHIP also asked opinions about the safety of e-cigarettes. Over half of Kentucky adults believe the aerosol in electronic vapor products to be somewhat harmful to children, while 27 percent believe the aerosol can cause a lot of harm. Few adults – 10 percent – believe the aerosol causes no harm.

A copy of the KHIP e-cigarette report is available here.

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $27 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.

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