This school year is coming to a close, giving middle and high school students relief from peer pressure while on campus to try e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Our youth are at risk, as more than one in seven Kentucky eighth graders and one in four 12th graders used vapor products last year. Unknowingly, most often, they exposed themselves to harmful nicotine -- a highly addictive substance -- at a young age while their brains are still developing. Research indicates that vaping could permanently disrupt the growth of connections within the brain that control learning, could cause the brain to be more susceptible to other forms of addiction, and could even lead to more complex health issues such as cancer and lung disease.

CHI Saint Joseph Health applauds recent action taken by government officials to protect the health of Kentucky's youth. The Tobacco-Free Schools bill passed by the Kentucky legislature earlier this year prohibits the use of tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products at schools. The next step is for local boards of education to adopt policies for implementation of the new law by July 1, 2020. We strongly urge school board members to put the health of Kentucky's students first, paving the way for a healthier future.

At our nation's capital, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Senator Tim Kaine (VA) introduced the Tobacco 21 Act to increase the age for selling tobacco products, including vaping devices, from 18 to 21. This proposed legislation is focused on addressing the nationwide teen vaping epidemic while changing the culture of tobacco dependency.

CHI Saint Joseph Health is committed to improving the health of populations we serve. Preventing tobacco use and vaping is a top priority. That's why we joined the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which supports Tobacco-Free Schools and Tobacco 21 as commonsense public policies that will give our youth an opportunity to be healthier.

Sherri Craig, Market VP Public Policy

Neva Francis, Market VP Healthy Communities

CHI Saint Joseph Health

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