TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida teens are showing the lowest smoking rates among high school students in state history.
This comes amidst skyrocketing vaping rates among youth, but Tobacco Free Florida hopes some of the same strategies used to lower smoking rates may help in the effort to tackle the vaping crisis.
Smoking rates among high school students dropped from 3.5 to 2.1 percent over the past year.
“Which is a historic low for us. It’s an 86 percent decrease since 2007,” said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Laura Corbin.
At the same time, youth vaping rates are skyrocketing.
Statistics show one in four teens use the devices, but Attorney General Ashley Moody believes the numbers don’t reflect reality.
“If you talk to the students one on one and get them to put their phones down for a moment they’ll tell you more than that,” said Moody.
Corbin said the drop in smoking isn’t necessarily related to the rise of vaping, as smoking rates have been steadily dropping even before the crisis.
“The FDA has attributed the recent rise in youth vaping to flavors [and] the high nicotine content,” said Corbin.
The Attorney General said she’ll be asking the Legislature to free up additional funds for anti-vaping campaigns during the 2020 session.
“We saw the success with smoking traditional combustibles. It can be replicated. Our Legislature just needs to make sure the funding is there,” said Moody.
The Attorney General also announced she’s opened an investigation into more than 20 vaping companies to find whether they intentionally marketed to children.
“And the purpose of that investigation is always to determine whether there is a next step that needs to be taken,” said Moody.
That next step could be a lawsuit similar to the one that produced the 1997 tobacco settlement, which now funds Tobacco Free Florida.
In addition, the Attorney General is advocating for a ban on flavored vape products and two factor age verification for online vape purchases.
She has not endorsed the idea of raising the age to purchase nicotine products to 21, which has been filed in the House.
Eighteen states and more than 500 municipalities, including two here in Florida, have already raised the age.