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State health officials launch campaign to reduce teen vaping

Citing a more than 300 percent increase in usage since 2012, Indiana's Department of Health announced a strategy Thursday to reduce vaping by Indiana youth.
In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) - Governor Holcomb and the state’s health commissioner say vaping has increased among middle and high school students nearly 400 percent.

The startling numbers are now prompting a statewide campaign to try to get kids to quit.

Gov. Holcomb and Health Commissioner Dr. Kristine Box kicked off “Vape Free Indiana” at Fishers High School Thursday afternoon, calling new Indiana vaping data at "near-epidemic proportions."

E-cigarette use has dramatically increased for both middle school and high school students.

According to the 2018 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey, vaping increased among middle school students by 358% and as much as 387% among high school students.

Dr. Box said the increases translate to nearly 35,000 more Indiana students using e-cigarettes over a 2-year period.

The state plans to spend an estimated $2 million on toolkits for schools and to educate parents and students about the health dangers of vaping.

“Vaping has put 35,000 new young people in harm's way, not only from respiratory illnesses like the ones in the news but also at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and other substances as they grow. That’s almost 10 times the population of Fishers High School,” said Dr. Box.

At least 24 people in Indiana have contracted a respiratory infection associated with vaping.

Just days ago, a Carmel family filed a lawsuit here in Indiana against JUUL, one of the largest manufacturers of e-cigarettes, claiming the company’s products caused their son to become addicted to nicotine through its flavored products.

The Department of Health has set up a “Vape-Free Indiana” website with more information on its youth and vaping survey. The state is also launching a text message campaign called “DitchJuul”

Dr. Box said manufacturers have gone after young people and now the state is “behind the 8-ball” trying to reverse the trend.

“These products that are billed as kid friendly are anything but that. It doesn’t matter if they taste like your favorite fruit. One JUUL contains as much nicotine is an entire package of cigarettes,” she said.

Learn more about the dangers of vaping and ways to protect children here.