The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is thinking ahead -- to the next legislative session.
Ben Chandler, the organization's president and CEO, made a few stops in Owensboro on Wednesday afternoon, including a visit to the Messenger-Inquirer. He gave a brief breakdown of the foundation's hot-button issues for 2019.
No. 1 on the agenda: The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will push for all schools in the state to have tobacco-free campuses. The effort failed earlier in Frankfort, Chandler said.
"Of all the people you want to protect, it should be kids," he said.
Tobacco-free campuses would not allow the use of smokeless products or e-cigarettes, which the Food and Drug Administration describes as "electronic nicotine delivery systems."
In December, the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow will host a Louisville conference about e-cigarettes. At the conference, Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will release a report that provides details about how young people perceive e-cigarettes.
The state has seen a large spike in the use of Juul and vaping products, Chandler said.
"Most of these e-cigarette products are owned by tobacco companies," he said.
The FDA estimated more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2017.
Juul is a product that resembles a computer thumb drive in size and appearance. It hides easily in a student's hand.
Also, vaping products are made in flavors, such as bubble gum and cotton candy, Chandler said. "They are getting a lot of young people hooked, and studies show it leads to smoking."
On Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb released a statement about the alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes among the nation's youth. He asked manufacturers to voluntarily step up to address those concerns.
"We're committed to announcing a new action plan by mid-November that will set forth a series of new, forceful steps to firmly confront and reverse the youth addiction trends that are at epidemic levels," Gottlieb said.
Chandler said the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will ask the 2019 legislature to impose a tax on e-cigarettes to make them more expensive, which would curb use. The organization led the charge last year to raise the sin tax on cigarettes. The legislature upped the tax by 50 cents per pack, which was half of what the foundation wanted.
However, at the last minute, state lawmakers yanked e-cigarettes from the bill, so this year's tax increase did not apply to them.
One-third of all cancers can be attributed to smoking, Chandler said.
Every Kentucky family pays close to $1,200 a year to pay for the state's smoking habit, whether they smoke or not.
Out of the state's 120 counties, only five have comprehensive smoke-free laws. They are Jefferson, Fayette, Oldham, Woodford and Hardin counties.
Chandler hopes more local jurisdictions join the bandwagon. Ultimately, he would like the state to adopt a comprehensive smoke-free law.