More than 1,000 events are underway today worldwide, including in the Missouri, to rally against tobacco use, especially among youth. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says 11% of Missouri’s high school students smoke. According to the organization, from 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high school students jumped from 1.5% to 16% nationwide, and more kids use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes.

Youth gather at Missouri Capitol to rally against tobacco use

Ginny Chadwick is with a group at the state capitol today and says tobacco companies are spending big money to market things like electronic cigarettes to kids.

“When we look specifically at what youth are using, it’s not traditional cigarettes. That is still declining,” says Chadwick. “It is through e-cigarettes that our youth use rates are increasing overall because youth are entering the marketing through e-cigarettes. Once they pick up one product, they’re much more likely to be dual users.”

E-cigarettes and cigars are sold in a wide assortment of candy and fruit flavors, such as gummy bear, cotton candy and fruit punch.

“Youth once they pick up one product, they’re much more likely to transition. They’re still getting hooked on nicotine,” says Chadwick. “That’s thing the e-cigarette industry will often tell you is that they’re water vapor. They’re not harmful. “It’s not water vapor and it’s not harmless.”

Are e-cigarettes as harmful as traditional tobacco products?

“They don’t cause as much harm but if a poisonous snake is deadly, is a less poisonous snake that’s still deadly actually harmful? Yes,” says Chadwick.

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation – 17 cents per pack of cigarettes.

“We have one of the highest youth use rates. So, 14.9% of our youth are taking up tobacco products. Where if you compare us to surrounding states, we are much higher,” says Chadwick.

Chadwick says the national youth use rate is about 13.9%.