An open letter about vaping

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Dear Superintendents, Principals and Counselors:

The skyrocketing popularity and use of vaping products by children and youth has resulted in a recent outbreak of severe lung injury. We are writing to share important educational information and links to resources for school administrators, teachers, parents and students about the dangers of youth e-cigarette use and vaping.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has been investigating 30 potential cases of possible severe lung injury due to vaping. Of these 30 cases, three have been confirmed as vaping related illnesses, nine are probable cases and seven have been ruled out. Eleven cases are still under investigation. Of the nine probable cases, two of them were under the age of 18. As of Oct. 22, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is aware of more than 1,600 cases in 49 states, and is reporting that there have been at least 34 deaths including a 17-year-old victim.  

The unprecedented increase in vaping by youth and young adults between 2017 and 2018 prompted the U.S. surgeon general to issue a public health advisory, which is an action taken only four times in the past 20 years. High school students increased tobacco use by 78% and middle school students increased tobacco use by 48% within a year.  

E-cigarettes are harmful to youth and young adults who may develop a nicotine addiction more easily because their brains are still developing. Additionally, there is substantial evidence to suggest that when youth are introduced to electronic vaping products, they are more likely to try traditional tobacco products. This increase in youth use is halting the progress made over the past decade to prevent new life-long addictions to tobacco.

Schools with tobacco-free policies that include e-cigarettes promote a reduction in youth vaping. If you have any questions, suggestions or concerns, or if you would like additional resources on tobacco prevention or maintaining a tobacco-free school environment, please contact the Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program at KY.TobaccoFree@ky.gov or (502) 564-9358.

Thank you so much for your commitment to keeping our children and youth healthy.

Sincerely,

Angela T. Dearinger, M.D., MPH
Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Public Health

and 

Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., Ph.D.
Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Education

Resources on Electronic Cigarettes

Youth Cessation Options (All Free of Charge)

  • Quit Now Kentucky – This tool provides free cessation services to youth and to young adults. Visit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • INDEPTH: An Alternative to Teen Nicotine Suspension or Citation – The American Lung Association offers a new program that helps schools and communities address teen vaping. INDEPTH is an interactive program that teaches students about nicotine dependence, establishing healthy alternatives and how to kick the addiction.

Youth Prevention Programs for Educators

  • “Know the Risks: A Youth Guide to E-Cigarettes” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) – This presentation is intended to inform youth about e-cigarettes.
  • CATCH My Breath: Youth E-cigarette Prevention Program (CATCH Global Foundation) – CATCH My Breath™ is a youth e-cigarette, vape, JUUL and vape prevention program specific to grades 5-12.
  • Stanford Medicine’s Tobacco Prevention Toolkit (Stanford University) – This tool is an educational resource that can be adapted to fit the individual needs of students in all settings, including elementary, middle and high schools; community-based organizations; and health-related agencies. Click here for more information about Stanford Medicine’s Prevention Toolkit.
  • ASPIRE (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) – This is a bilingual, online tool that helps middle and high school teens learn about being tobacco free. It explains the dangers of tobacco use and offers information about ways to quit.

Sources for Parents

Resources for Students and Young Adults

General Research and Information

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