Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box used Fishers High School and some members of the student body as a backdrop for its Aug. 29 announcement of a three-pronged strategy to reduce vaping.
“It’s the perfect venue and perfect audience to connect with in the coming months,” Holcomb said.
The Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey found vaping has increased 387 percent among high school students and 358 percent among middle school students since 2012. Between 2016 and 2018, 35,000 more Indiana students used e-cigarettes.
“We know we have our work cut out for us because vaping has continued to grow and cause harm,” Holcomb said. “Even the surgeon general, especially because it involves so many of our younger folks, has called it an epidemic.”
In partnership with the Indiana Dept. of Education, Box said the Dept. of Health will be rolling out school-based tools detailing the dangers of vaping.
Secondly, Box said a website, vapefreeindiana.isdh.in.gov., is for parents and educators to learn more to protect state youth from the dangers of vaping. There will be an educational toolkit for anyone to use online to get information for parents, students and educators.
“We will be training students to serve as ambassadors. It will be there because we know middle school students listen better to high school students and high school students listen to the seniors in high school and those going off to college,” Box said. “A text-to-quit campaign has been launched, texting DITCHJUUL to 889-09 for help. Lastly, we will build awareness through youth-focused social media campaign on the dangers of vaping statewide. We’re going to reach you where we know you are, that is on your social media.
“We are attacking this with urgency and significant resources. These products that are billed as kid-friendly are anything but that. One Juul contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.”
Holcomb said the three-pronged approach is about getting to every rural, urban and suburban community.
“That’s why it’s important the Dept. of Health and Dept. of Education are collaborating and making sure that parents, educators and students have access,” Holcomb said. “So, it’s awareness and access, making sure no one is left out. It’s affecting every size community and school.”
Box said the state is spending a few million dollars for the media campaign and resources.
‘We have to match what the Juul and e-cigarette people have done, dollar for dollar,” Box said. “We had done such a good job getting the youth using cigarettes down to a minimal number. This has recruited a new generation of smokers.”
Holcomb said he supports Indiana Sen. Todd Young’s proposal to raise the national age to buy tobacco products to 21. Holcomb said he will discuss with state legislators about possibility raising the age at the state level.
“We know the efforts to curb use of vaping is paramount for us,” Hoclomb said. “Statistics show 88 percent of the people smoking started before they were 18. It’s getting harder and harder to stop. There is no one solution. That’s why this is three-pronged.