In West Virginia, 14.3 percent of high school students have self-reported e-cigarette use to the Truth Initiative. Nationally, that rate is 25 percent.
In the past two years alone, the number of teens who vape has doubled, all numbers according to those with the American Heart Association (AHA).
That is why the AHA and other health organizations have launched a national campaign targeting “Big Vape companies” to address youth use of e-cigarettes.
“I want people to understand that this is an epidemic. We have rarely seen such a significant, rapid uptick in the usage of products. It’s really quite startling,” Bob Pepper, board member of the AHA’s Metro Board told MetroNews.
Pepper, who is also a member of the Charleston board, was recently in Philadelphia for the launch of the campaign.
There are three components to the campaign: investments of $20 million in research focused on the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use on young people; efforts to change public policy at all levels of government to prevent youth vaping and nicotine addiction and launches of a nationwide youth, school and community engagement and awareness campaign, dubbed #QuitLying.
Pepper said the big vape companies have lied to children about vaping by using popular flavors such as mango and mint to attract them.
“They denied it but frankly it’s a lie. Hence our hashtag quit lying,” he said. “They have used it remarkably successfully to market this product to kids.”
Pepper added that funding is desperately needed at the state level to address tobacco education and cessation programs. He said it will be the association’s top priority come next legislative sessions to address the issues of lack of funding compared to previous years.
There was a $1 million allocation for this year.
“That money was removed,” Pepper said. “We were one of only two or three states in the nation that had no funding at the state level for cessation and education. That is ironic given the fact that we have the highest per capita smoking rates in the country.”
Digital and social media tools will be utilized to reach young people in the campaign. More information is available at www.QuitLying.org.
“E-cigarette companies lie to our kids when they falsely claim their products are safe and they deceive parents by marketing devices that look like USB drives, pens, and eyeliner,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.
“The industry’s lies don’t just sound like Big Tobacco — the industry is Big Tobacco.”
She and others have started referring to the vaping industry as “Big Vape.”
The new steps supplement past and ongoing AHA work to restrict tobacco sales to adults 21 and older, prohibit marketing to kids, including e-cigarettes in comprehensive smoke-free laws and tax e-cigarettes at the same rates as traditional tobacco.