(FRANKFORT, Ky - January 14, 2020) Taxing e-cigarettes, or "vapes," sold in Kentucky is very popular among Kentucky adults across the political spectrum, even while most have never tried the tobacco products that are addicting adolescents and teens at alarming rates in the Commonwealth and across the nation.
 
According to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), 75 percent of Kentucky adults support adding a state excise tax on e-cigs that is similar to the cigarette tax rate. Those supporting the tax include 78 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Independents. Yet KHIP found that just one in four adults have tried e-cigs, compared to more than half of Kentucky's high school students who have done so (youth data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey).
 
KHIP, an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults about health and health policy issues, is sponsored jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. The report also found that the vast majority of Kentucky adults believe e-cigarettes are at least as harmful as traditional cigarettes for youth.
 
"We think parents and adults who work with kids understand that the most appalling problem with vapes right now is the youth epidemic," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation. "E-cigarettes create distinct dangers for kids because of their high nicotine content and the fact that some of the growing number of kids who smoke them tell us they often go through several pods a day. Taxing these products on par with cigarettes is one of the most effective steps we can take to reduce youth vaping, and we'll be advocating for that as a measure to protect kids during this year's General Assembly."
 
"Research shows that nicotine harms the developing brains of adolescents and youth, rewiring them to be more susceptible to addiction - both to other tobacco products as well as to illicit drugs... quite simply, nicotine is the ultimate gateway drug," said Dr. Brent Wright, chair of the Foundation's board of directors and president of the Kentucky Medical Association. "Most youth do not understand that e-cigarettes contain nicotine. E-cigarette aerosol contains fewer chemicals than cigarette smoke, but it's important to understand that e-cigarette chemicals such as heavy metals, carcinogens and flavorings can damage your lungs and cause other short-term and long-term health issues for youth and adults."
 
Harm perception
KHIP found some variations in opinions among Kentucky adults about the harmfulness of e-cigarettes. About half believe that e-cigs are just as harmful as traditional cigarettes for both youth (45 percent) and adults (54 percent), but two in five believe they're more harmful for youth while nearly one in five believe they're less harmful for adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against using e-cigs for youth, pregnant women and adults who don't currently smoke, and has not approved them as a smoking cessation tool.
 
3 in 10 Kentucky adults have tried e-cigs
E-cigarettes are generally more popular among young adults ages 18 to 45 than the older adult population, according to KHIP.
About one in four Kentucky adults overall have tried e-cigarettes, but 39 percent of those 18 to 29 and 42 percent of those 30 to 45 have tried them, compared to one in five adults ages 46 to 64. Across all ages, one in 10 Kentucky adults say they currently use e-cigarettes, KHIP found.
By contrast, the latest Kentucky youth data found that more than half - 53 percent - of Kentucky high school students have tried vaping. More than a quarter of the state's high school students and nearly one in five middle schoolers currently use e-cigarettes. Among middle schoolers in Kentucky, current use more than quadrupled from 2017 to 2019; among high school students, current use nearly doubled and daily use more than quadrupled during the same time period.
 
A copy of the KHIP report, "3 in 4 Kentucky Adults Favor E-Cigarette Tax," is available here.
 
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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 more than $29 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.
 
Media Contacts:
Bonnie J. Hackbarth
bhackbarth@healthy-ky.org 
877-326-2583 (Office)
502-552-3770 (Mobile)
 
Alexa Kerley
akerley@healthy-ky.org 
877-326-2583 (Office)
859-229-9611 (Mobile)