JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tobacco Free Florida is calling teen vaping an epidemic and is launching a new campaign to discourage youth from using e-cigarettes.
The group cites a 2018 survey in that found 1 in 4 Florida high schoolers admitted to vaping -- a staggering 58% increase among the youth. By contrast, adult vaping rates have remained fairly constant, around 4%.
“So this is a youth issue,” Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Laura Corbin said.
Corbin said the same tobacco companies that marketed to teens in the past are now using the same methods to promote e-cigs.
There is concern that young people think vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes.
"Many youth believe that they (e-cigarettes) are harmless. E-cigarette aerosol is not water vapor. In fact, they typically contain nicotine," Corbin said. “Juul, the most popular brand among the youth, comes in a variety of flavors. They have high amounts of nicotine. Nicotine exposure can be harmful to youth brain development."
"The FDA has deemed these as a tobacco product," said Matt Jordan of the American Cancer Society.
On Monday, as part of Tobacco Free Florida Week, the state group launched a new digital media campaign called "E-Epidemic." Corbin said similar campaigns helped reduce smoking rates among the youth.
“Our message is simple: Vaping is not safe for kids, teens or young adults,” said Corbin.
Health experts with the American Cancer Society said education is a good first step, but they’re also pushing to raise the age for purchasing vaping products from 18 to 21.
“People under 18 are still able to get tobacco products, but there are 18-year-olds in high school right? So seniors in high school can give the freshman, sophomores and juniors those tobacco products, but there aren't a lot of 21-year-olds in high school,” Jordan said.
The Tobacco 21 Act, which would raise the age for both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products is moving through the Legislature.
Jordan said there are some issues with the legislation in its current form.
The House version includes preemption language that could take away local governments' ability to set restrictions on how tobacco companies can advertise in their communities.
The Senate also includes an exception for cigars.
The bill is ready for a floor vote in the House and gets its final committee hearing in the Senate on Tuesday.
Visit Tobacco Free Florida to learn more about smoking statistics, data and information on how to quit.