FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) – Abby Heffner was once surrounded by friends. Then she picked up a Juul e-cigarette.
“They thought I was a bad influence, and didn’t want to hang around with me because of the things I was doing with Juul,” she said.
Heffner was in Frankfort on Tuesday, where she was joined by several of her peers from around the state, and a number of legislators, who make up the group, “Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow.” Their mission isn’t to raise awareness about the teen vaping epidemic, (they’ve feel as if we’re already aware of the problem), theirs’ is a mission to find ways to combat the issue.
“We’ve seen some very dramatic advertisements about people that had the consequences of using tobacco long-term. Kids pay attention to that,” said State Senator Ralph Alvarado who represents the 28th District of Clark, Fayette and Montgomery counties.
Abby certainly did. She said she’s never tried to smoke a cigarette in her life, because she grew up being told they’re bad for you. But when it came to an e-cigarette?
“I was immediately hooked,” she offered.
The group feels an excise tax, like the one placed on combustible tobacco products could go a long way towards curbing the problem. Alvarado said some states that have levied this tax have seen a reduction in usage. He also believes strongly in the new federal law, which has changed the minimum age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products, to 21.
“A lot of 18-year-olds are entrepreneurs,” he said. “What they do is, they go to the store, buy a bunch of Juul products and sell them to their classmates at a premium.”
And the price is steep, as those classmates, keep… coming… back for more. The group estimates that usage at the middle school level has quadrupled in recent years.
Heffner, however, is happy to report that she’s no longer among the users.
“It took me over a year, and four separate Juul devices to quit,” she said.
But she did it! And no longer has to worry about losing more friends.