LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — CHI Saint Vincent Infirmary hosted an open dialogue to talk about what’s being called an e-cigarette epidemic.
In 2018, over 3.6 million youth in the country were using e-cigarettes. Last year, that number jumped to 5 million, according to the FDA.
Thursday, Arkansas health professionals, educators, and teens came together to talk about the problems.
“It needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed right away,” American Heart Association (AHA) Government Relations Director David Oberembt said.
The AHA is working to get more people talking about teens vaping.
“We have a generation of children that are going to be hooked on nicotine,” Oberembt said.
Community members discussed how to get e-cigarettes out of teens hands.
“It’s really important that kids know about it, and kids stay away from it,” 11th grader and AHA Volunteer Brynne Johnson said.
High school students, who are seeing them more and more in their circles, are educating the adults.
“Many were surprised. I mean, some knew like the typical Juul because that’s the most advertised,” Johnson said.
High school students showed what appeared to be a highlighter, Apple watch, and hoodie, which were e-cigarettes hidden in plain sight.
“The big thing we can do is tax vaping devices like other tobacco products,” Oberembt said.
AHA Government Relations Director David Oberembt said Arkansas laws need to make vapes harder to purchase.
“They’re exempt from tobacco taxes we put on cigarettes,” Oberembt said.
He said if teens don’t have the money in their wallets, they won’t have vapes in their hands.
“Studies have shown that this is the number one thing we can do to prevent teens and young adults from starting this and getting addicted,” Oberembt said.
To combat the problem, the AHA is urging Arkansans to contact legislators urge them to put taxes on e-cigarettes.