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Teen Poll Reaffirms WV Student Vaping Epidemic

A survey of Boone County, W.Va., high school students found that 57% use e-cigarettes, almost three times the national average. (Adobe Stock)
A survey of Boone County, W.Va., high school students found that 57% use e-cigarettes, almost three times the national average. (Adobe Stock)
March 4, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two West Virginia teens concerned about their peers' use of e-cigarettes conducted a poll that now is helping state lawmakers' push to fund tobacco- and vaping-education programs.

Kelsi Akers and Haley Ceravolo surveyed almost 600 students in Boone County's three high schools -- and their findings are startling. Akers said almost 60% of the students use e-cigarettes -- almost twice the state average, and three times the national average.

"We grew up thinking that cigarette was, it didn't smell good -- like, we've seen our parents do it; we didn't like it," she said. "But once that Juuls came around, we felt like it's a new thing to do. So, a lot of our peers decided to go towards that without smoking first."

The teens shared their findings this week with state lawmakers to help back House Bill 4494. Sponsored by Del. Mick Bates, D-Raleigh County, the bill would add more funding for statewide tobacco- and vaping-cessation and education programs, and has bipartisan support.

West Virginia has the highest teen vaping rate in the country, according to a state Health Department report. Ceravolo said her poll reaffirms the report's assessment of e-cigarette use among her peers as an "epidemic." She said she thinks education is the solution.

"We're asking the Senate to approve House Bill 4494, because it's going to provide education in all West Virginia schools," she said. "Because we think, honestly, if they knew more about it, they wouldn't do it because they don't think it's bad -- because it's just a lack of knowledge."

Cabell and Kanawha counties have passed laws this year banning indoor vaping. State Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, called for a statewide ban on selling flavored e-cigarettes in the fall. But there's been no legislative follow-up.

The text of HB 4494 is online at wvlegislature.gov, and the state vaping study is at dhhr.wv.gov.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV