FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- The state of Indiana received over 130-million dollars last week from tobacco product manufacturers as part of an ongoing national settlement agreement. According to the CDC, U.S. cigarette smoking rates have dropped to another all-time low. However, in northeast Indiana, the percentage of smokers beats national rates.
According to the non-profit organization Tobacco Free Allen County, the adult smoking rate in Indiana is 19.4% compared to 11% nationwide. In Allen County , around 20% of adults smoke. The high school tobacco use rate is 22.9% and that’s all tobacco products combined together. But the majority of teen use is vaping. The organization reports that 5.2% of Indiana high school students smoke, more than double the 2% U.S. teen smoking rate, and 18.5% of Indiana teens vape.
Executive Director of Tobacco free Allen County, Nancy Cripe, is concerned about usage rates, especially with vaping.
“The industry comes up with this mass produced product that they can claim is safer and make it look really cool and make it look high tech and put all these flavorings in it because there aren’t these regulations saying they can’t,” said Cripe.
The spring 2022 data show that 18% of high school seniors in northeast Indiana vape. Cripe says they only way for change to happen is to raise the tobacco tax and to get rid of the flavoring in e-cigarettes.
Tobacco usage rates are down from previous years, but only slightly.
“I hope we don’t go back up, it peaked in around 2018, 2019 and then we have seen it drop some, not dramatically, but it has dropped some since then,” Cripe said.
With many teens struggling with mental health, Cripe also warns that vaping could increase feelings of depression and anxiety.