Study shows Kentucky ranks fifth for daily electronic cigarette use, which translates to about 80,000 daily vapers in the state

From 2012 to 2014, Kentucky ranked fifth for daily use of electronic cigarettes and was among the top 10 states for current use, which includes occasional use, Darla Carter reports for Insider Louisville. That translates to more than 206,000 (5.9 percent) of Kentuckians vaping either daily or occasionally and 80,000 (2.3 percent) vaping every day, said one of the authors of the study that found the data.

The study by the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, used 2012-14 data from the National Adult Tobacco Survey and the American Lung Association‘s State of Tobacco Control annual reports for 2012 and 2013 to examine the association between state-level tobacco control measures and e-cigarette use, while also accounting for socio-demographic use.

Aruni Bhatnagar of the University of Louisville, one of the study authors, told Carter that this high use of e-cigarettes is likely related to the state’s high smoking rate, which is nearly 25 percent: “If you have a high number of smokers to begin with, you’re going to have a high number of people who are using e-cigs.”

Table from Insider Louisville

The researchers found that 15 percent of e-cig users had not used cigarettes before. They found of the 10.8 million adult e-cigarette users in 2016,  2.8 million of them were 18- to 24-year-olds, which had the highest rate of current use. Over half of current users were under 35.

“That’s interesting and potentially concerning,” Dr. Michael Blaha, senior author and director of clinical research for the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, told Carter.

Many in the medical community continue to be concerned about the safety of e-cigarettes, though a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently concluded that “while e-cigarettes are not without health risks, they are likely to be far less harmful than conventional cigarettes,” Carter writes.

“E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful,” David Eaton, chair of the committee that wrote the report, said in a news release at the time. “In some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, disagreed.

“The growing use of e-cigarettes threatens to reverse the trend of making nicotine addiction less socially acceptable and of falling smoking rates,” Moyer said in a written statement to Insider Louisville. “Their use in public places also poses health dangers to non-users from secondhand exposure.”

Bhatnagar, who also directs UofL’s Envirome Institute, made similar comments: “In young people, smoking is no longer cool or socially acceptable, and now with the advent of e-cigarettes, it can erode all the gains that we’ve been making in trying to contain nicotine addiction.”
Bhatnagar told Carter that nicotine isn’t good for the developing brains of young adults, can affect their cardiovascular health, and creates an addiction that is hard to kick, making it easier to switch to regular cigarettes.