(Frankfort, Ky., March 5, 2019) The failure of legislation in the Senate that would have raised the legal age for sales of tobacco products in Kentucky from 18 to 21 is a "tragic loss of opportunity to protect Kentucky's adolescents and teens from the growing epidemic of vaping," according to a statement today from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. First, a stand-alone "tobacco 21" bill failed in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Feb. 25. In a second attempt, Sens. Stephen Meredith and Paul Hornback filed floor amendments to another bill to accomplish the same goal. Today, those amendments were stripped before Senators were allowed to vote on the underlying bill.
Here is the full statement from Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky:
"We have a growing epidemic of youth vaping in Kentucky. National data shows that one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. Our own research, done in conjunction with Kentucky Youth Advocates, also shows that Kentucky teen e-cigarette use is rampant. A 'tobacco-21' law would make it a lot harder for these kids to access e-cigarettes, vapes and other tobacco products. More than 90 percent of tobacco addiction starts in youth, so this bill also would reduce adult tobacco use in Kentucky down the line, saving literally thousands of lives and billions of health care dollars. Whatever stopped the 'tobacco-21' bill in the Senate also stopped the progress we could make in preventing another generation of Kentucky kids from becoming addicted to nicotine.
"The ball is now in the court of Kentucky's House of Representatives to allow its members to vote on the tobacco-free schools bill, which has been languishing for nearly a month following unanimous passage by the Health and Family Services Committee on Feb. 7. Rep. Kim Moser has done everything she can to get this bill brought up on the floor but her efforts continue to be thwarted - by whom, we are not entirely sure. But the youth vaping epidemic is sentencing an entirely new generation of young Kentuckians - many of them youth who never would have tried a tobacco product but for kid-friendly flavored e-cigarettes - to a lifetime of tobacco-related illness and early death.
"Senate leadership has indicated a willingness to take up the tobacco-free schools bill, and indeed has already passed such a bill in prior years, if only the House will send it over. For the sake of our youth, we urge House leadership to allow a vote on a measure that is supported by the majority of members and by 87 percent of Kentucky adults."
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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 nearly $28 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.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth