We don’t have a problem with vaping…we have a developing epidemic.
As of October 2019 Indiana has 41 confirmed cases of lung injury, 56 cases under investigation, and at least 4 deaths directly attributable to vaping (CDC). The largest number of lung injury cases are found in the 18-29 year old demographic, which are largely college aged students. We surveyed more than 7,000 college students in Indiana and the 2019 results show that 26% of college students reported vaping (this is higher than the national average of 21%). We asked about what substances these students vape: 72% vaped nicotine, 52% flavors only, and 47% reported vaping THC.
There is an argument about both tobacco and alcohol that if 18 year olds can sign contracts, have credit cards, join the military, and vote -- then why should not they have a drink or smoke. The answer is neuroscience. Our brains are not finished developing until around 25 and substances used during that time may have negative and often irreversible consequences. Nicotine interferes with processes that are critical to memory, learning, focus, impulse control and brain development. Because nicotine tricks the brain’s reward centers into creating a pleasure response when someone smokes or vapes, continued smoking and vaping can lead to addiction.
Tobacco use by young people, particularly those with mental illnesses is a major public health concern (Journal of Behavioral Health), and some research suggests that smoking prevalence follows patterns similar to adults with mental illness, with findings ranging from 20-60% of youth with mental illness reporting tobacco use. Adolescents with depression, for instance, smoke at rates 3 times higher than adolescents without mental illness (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018).
The 2015 Institute of Medicine report on smoking indicates that by raising the smoking age to 21 smoking initiation would be reduced by 25% among 15-17 year olds and 15% among 18- 20 year olds. These reductions would result in an estimated 250,000 fewer premature deaths among those born between 2000-2019. Raising the age to 21 is the next logical step in tobacco and vaping control and will help protect the health and mental health of one of our most vulnerable populations, our youth.
Please contact your legislator
to support Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1006.
Stephen C. McCaffrey, JD
President and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana