tobacco

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Warren County is joining at least five other Kentucky school districts in suing Juul, one of the leading manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and other vaping products. 

Electronic cigarettes have become commonplace at middle and high schools, despite a state law requiring a person to be at least 18 years old to buy them. 

Vaping products have spurred investigations by government regulators who blame their flavored varieties for appealing to teens and halting what had been a steady decline of youth smoking rates.  The lawsuit seeks an injunctive order that would require the company to stop marketing its products to youth.

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The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says a new law that went into effect this year has helped increase the number of schools in the state that are now tobacco-free. Kentucky lawmakers earlier this year passed a law banning students, employees and volunteers from using any tobacco products — including e-cigarettes — on school grounds or during school events. 

Data from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky released last week show that prior to passage of the new law, 74 school districts had policies banning vaping or e-cigarettes. Now, an additional 74 districts have taken up the policy, a total of 84 percent of public school districts in Kentucky. Enforcement of the law is left up to schools.

Lisa Gillespie

Kentucky has a complicated relationship with tobacco. At one time the plant was the biggest cash crop in the state. But that’s changed dramatically. Back in 1999, Kentucky farmers harvested 221,000 acres. Last year, the yield had plummeted to only 68,000 aces of tobacco.

For the Tribble family of Mercer County, this means a husband having to leave work as a full-time farmer for a public service job. But as WFPL’s Lisa Gillespie reports, Rhonda Tribble doesn’t want people to use tobacco products — but she wishes it wouldn’t go away altogether.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says one of his "highest priorities" is to take on the leading cause of preventable death in the United States: smoking.

McConnell has sponsored a bill, along with Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, that would increase the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21.

Ryland Barton

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell said he will introduce a bill raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 across the country.

During a news conference in Louisville Thursday, McConnell said he will introduce the legislation in May.

“By raising the age you could legally purchase to 21, tobacco won’t be in most high schools, presenting fewer opportunities for children to get their hands on vaping devices,” McConnell said.

kickbuttsday.org

Communities across Kentucky will join a national event on March 20 aimed at discouraging the use of  e-cigarettes and tobacco.

National 'Kick Butts Day' is a day of activism organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

More than 1,000 events will be held across the U.S., with the main focus on getting young people to kick the e-cigarette habit, especially Juul, which looks like a computer flash drive and comes in appealing flavors like mango, fruit and mint.

In Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University will host a campus-wide 'Cigarette Butt Clean Up Day.'

The American Lung Association and other health advocates will gather in Frankfort on Thursday in hopes of rescuing legislation that would make all of Kentucky's public schools 100% tobacco-free.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s signature piece of legislation this year is stalled in the waning days of the 30-day session of the General Assembly.

HB 11 would prohibit cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and vaping items both during and after school hours.

Mary Meehan

The Juul fits easily in the palm of your hand. You don’t light it, you trigger it with a click of a finger. The mist that is exhaled is so fine it’s hard to see. The nicotine is delivered via a pod the size of a AAA battery, with each pod containing the equivalent of 20 cigarettes.

That combination of small size and potent power makes the Juul the vaping device of choice for many teen users. A group of students from Casey County, Kentucky, affirms those features make “Juul-ing” – yes it has become a verb – rampant in class.

“Yes, oh yes,” they all nod in agreement.


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In a state where tobacco has a rich history, a movement is underway to increase Kentucky’s tax on cigarettes.  Supporters say it would reduce smoking rates and save lives while opponents argue a tax hike will hurt farmers and the economy.  But with the state facing billions of dollars in pension obligations, lawmakers this legislative session appear to have more of an appetite for increasing the cigarette tax. 

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky spent six figures just in the first month of this year’s legislative session trying to convince lawmakers to increase Kentucky’s cigarette tax by one dollar.  The $100, 240 spent by the health advocacy group wasn’t much more than the $95, 218 spent by tobacco companies. 

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The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky spent six figures lobbying members of the General Assembly just in the first month of the 2018 session.  Their efforts are bearing some fruit.

The Kentucky House passed a budget bill Thursday that includes a 50 cent hike in the cigarette tax. 

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is pressing lawmakers to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar.  CEO Ben Chandler sees a 50 cent tax increase as an ineffective compromise.  He thinks 50 cents isn’t enough to make smokers give up the habit.

Mary Meehan

Hundreds of kids scurrying to buses are oblivious to a sign above them declaring Bourbon County High School “100 percent Tobacco Free.” But upstairs in the library, sophomore and anti-smoking advocate Jacob Steward unfurls a six-foot scroll with earth-toned papers trapped between clear sheets of laminate. He begins reading the anti-smoking slogans he’ll post around the school.

“E-cigs pose threat to health and turn kids into addicts and gives big tobacco your money,” he said. “E-cigs, neither water, vapor or harmless.”


NPR

Nicotine will now be at the center of the Food and Drug Administration’s effort to regulate tobacco, the agency said, announcing that it will aim to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to a level that will help curb addiction.

It would be the first time in the agency’s history that it has sought to regulate the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.

“The overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes – the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Friday. “Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use.”

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Heavy rains throughout July have hit Kentucky tobacco hard this season.

University of Kentucky's Andy Bailey says the Kentucky Tennessee Dark Fired commodity holds a unique position in the world, responsible for nearly 90 percent of overall production and this month’s rains could affect growers yields drastically.

“We've got areas depending on the soil advantage class and how much rain it had gotten that losses may be from 5 to 10 percent up to 50 to 60 percent," said Bailey.

The kind of rain affecting this year’s crop is unlike anything Bailey has seen in the last 14 years.

“Tobacco is a more tropical crop that doesn't like saturated soil conditions," said Bailey. "So we've got areas depending on the soil advantage class and how much rain it had gotten that losses may be from 5 to 10 percent up to 50 to 60 percent."

Gov. Steve Beshear has vetoed part of a bill that appropriates money from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies.

The bill had set aside money to fill an estimated $26.6 million shortfall to fund agriculture, lung cancer research and early childhood programs.

The governor deleted the line that would have appropriated $26.6 million, saying that the shortfall has grown to $37 million.

“Taking this action now provides a solution to this late-breaking problem and avoids budget cuts to the very same programs for which the General Assembly, in this bill, provides additional funding for next year,” Beshear said in his veto statement.

The bill restores funds to several programs that are funded by a multi-state, multi-million dollar settlement stemming from a 1998 lawsuit against tobacco companies. Additional money for the programs comes from a smaller settlement Attorney General Jack Conway secured from tobacco companies last year.

The Kentucky state Senate is poised to pass a bill that would restore funds to several programs associated with the 1998 tobacco settlement.

Revenue from the tobacco settlement has flagged as fewer people have bought cigarettes in the state, leading to shortfalls in programs dealing with agriculture, early childhood, cancer research and programs that help people quit smoking.

“It’s what our revenue’s based on and as that goes down, the divisions to each one of those agencies goes down also,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville who sponsored the bill.

The extra money comes from a new settlement the state made with tobacco companies in 2014. Under the agreement, the state received an additional $110 million in fiscal year 2014 and over the next three years will receive $57.2 million more than the state had budgeted to receive from the tobacco settlement.

The bill also ensures that the money from the settlement can only be appropriated by the legislature. Last year Gov. Steve Beshear used the money to restore $42.5 million in budget cuts to lung cancer research, agriculture and other health assistance.

Several Senate Republicans suggested that Beshear’s use of the funds was a breach of power and that budget appropriations should be left to the legislature.

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