NJ working to reduce e-cigarette use among students
As the number of teenagers smoking electronic cigarettes increases, New Jersey is doing a number of things to combat the growing problem.
Current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products. E-cigarette use among students in high school rose from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent. Among middle school students, use rose from 1.1 percent to 3.9.
The findings were the first time that e-cigarettes surpassed the use of all other tobacco products.
During a recent Assembly Budget Committee hearing in Trenton, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said the state has undertaken a number of initiatives to combat e-cigarette use among young people.
"I'm very proud that New Jersey was the first state in the country to include e-cigarettes in our Smoke-Free Air Act," O'Dowd said.
In addition, there continues to be a push by the Christie administration to hike taxes on e-cigarettes, which O'Dowd said the CDC indicated is an effective way to reduce the number of teen users.
Last year, Gov. Chris Christie proposed an e-cigarette tax in his budget address, but it never made its way into the final spending plan.
O'Dowd said she supports including e-cigarettes in tobacco product taxes because they are addictive, and she is very concerned about the dramatic rise in the number of high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes.
"Because those children are so young, it is affecting and rewiring their brain so that they will have a lifelong challenge with addiction. We have taken that on as a priority area. We tried to incorporate a public awareness campaign just recently about the dangers of liquid nicotine," O'Dowd said.
The Health Department has spent a significant amount of time and resources trying to combat e-cigarette use among teens. In fact, New Jersey uses nearly $4 million federal dollars a year dedicated to cessation and prevention programs.