Vape products line the wall in a local vape shop on Bardstown Road.
Vape products line the wall in a local vape shop on Bardstown Road.
Stelle Bensenhaver

Clearing the Fog: Kentucky’s Response to the Vapdemic

Vaping in Kentucky has steadily increased in recent years, especially in young people. Our state has enforced little legislation to combat the prevalent use of e-cigarettes and vapes in minors. As Kentucky is number 1 in the country for adults using e-cigarettes daily, one would think more statutes would be passed by the state to prevent minors from latching onto the addicting habit that adults in our state are dependent on. The dire health consequences associated with vaping are dangerous in any person, but especially in minors with developing bodies.

Kentucky has placed a $1.50 tax on closed vaping cartridges and a 15% tax on open vaping systems to dissuade smokers and, of course, selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old is illegal but the unregulated sale of e-cigarettes and tobacco products is prevalent among young people, allowing them to forgo the tax and obtain the product.

Kentucky has enforced restrictions on public vaping by prohibiting its use in courtrooms, school grounds or functions, underground mines, piercing and tattoo shops and public pools. While these precautions protect the general public from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, they have minimal effect on Kentucky’s normalization of nicotine products.

Governor Beshear’s administration has strived to create stricter policies against the sale of tobacco products but relents that it will be difficult because “Kentucky’s history and culture is tied to the cultivation and processing of tobacco. The role of tobacco in Kentucky’s economy, coupled with the fact that tobacco was the livelihood of many Kentucky families, has created strong norms of acceptance around tobacco that pose a significant challenge to prevention efforts” according to the Lexington Times.

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For years, establishments in Louisville were not required to obtain licenses to sell nicotine, e-cigarettes and tobacco products. However, in 2022 the Louisville Metro Council put into effect the requirement of a license for retailers to sell any tobacco products. This license helps to ensure retailers follow the laws surrounding the sale of tobacco products and have stricter reins on the sale of any vaping products, especially to minors. The state has also taken measures to avoid youths from vaping devices by prohibiting vending machines with tobacco products from being accessible to minors and by not placing them at cash registers.

Kentucky legislators are realizing the dangers of vaping devices and tobacco products and are starting preliminary work to prevent Kentucky youth from those dangers.


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