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KY Students Participate in “I Just Didn’t Know” Campaign to End E-Cigarette Use

The "I Just Didn't Know" campaign aims to educate middle and high schoolers about the dangers of e-cigarettes. (Adobe Stock)
The "I Just Didn't Know" campaign aims to educate middle and high schoolers about the dangers of e-cigarettes. (Adobe Stock)
April 22, 2019

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. – Students in middle and high school are participating in a statewide effort to convince their peers that e-cigarettes are not harmless.

The educational campaign, called "I Just Didn't Know," is being spearheaded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

It includes a website with information and tools for parents and teachers, and videos freely available to schools, youth groups, health departments and other organizations to help spread the word about the dangers of e-cigarette use or vaping.

In the past year, e-cigarette use among high school students has jumped 78 percent nationwide. And, one in 20 middle schoolers now vape.

Alivia Hackworth is a student at Johnson County Middle School who has joined the campaign. She says many of her friends refuse to believe there's anything dangerous about e-cigarettes.

"I don't think they understand, because some of my friends will tell me that it's just water vapor, there's nothing harmful happening to them right now, (and) if something happens in the future, then they'll take care of it," she relates.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals and flavoring compounds that have been linked to lung disease.

Studies show nicotine can impair brain development and cause attention deficit disorder and poor impulse control in adolescents, and might also increase the risk of addiction to other substances.

Manufacturers have strategically marketed e-cigarettes to youths as an alternative to cigarettes containing tobacco.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the e-cigarette industry shells out more than $120 million yearly to market and advertise e-cigarettes.

Hackworth says the idea that e-cigarettes are trendy is pervasive among young Kentuckians.

"Right now, they just think that it's something that's cool and edgy to do," she states.

And it's not just youth embracing e-cigarettes. Kentucky ranks fifth in the country for daily use of electronic cigarettes, according to the American Heart Association.

Data on the health effects of long-term vaping is slim, but a 2018 study by researchers at the University of San Francisco found daily vaping in adults may nearly double the odds of having a heart attack.

Disclosure: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues, Smoking Prevention, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY