HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The issue of smoking and vaping has come to the forefront again during the pandemic, especially among young people.
Tuesday, more than 300 people, many of them students, rallied virtually to push lawmakers for action. This event has been going on for the past 11 years, and student and adult organizers alike say the COVID pandemic and youth vaping epidemic are big reasons why funding and education from the state is more critical than ever.
“The use of e-cigarettes, we have seen that rise at alarming rates from 2017 to 2019. E-cigarette use increased 135 percent among high school students and close to 212 percent among middle school students,” said Deb Brown, Chief Mission Officer of the American Lung Association.
According to the American Lung Association, every one in five teens in the U.S. vapes.
“I’ve had friends of mine who vape come up to me and say, they wish they never started or they wish they knew how to stop,” said Anastasia Groden, a Tobacco Resistance Unit youth ambassador.
That’s why hundreds gathered virtually Tuesday, calling on legislators to maintain and not lower nearly $14 million in state funding for prevention and quitting programs.
Rallyers also want to close loopholes in the clean indoor air act.
“Currently there are 1,700 application-based exemptions, and that means that there might be cigar bars, private clubs, casinos, tobacco shops, some of the full-service truck stops where smoking is still permitted,” said Brown.
By closing those loopholes, advocates say fewer people will be around secondhand smoke, which could lead to more complications if you get COVID, just like smoking does.
According to the American Lung Association, more than 22,000 deaths can be attributed to smoking each year in Pennsylvania.