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Florida Tobacco Use At All-Time Low, But Health Advocates Wary Of E-Cig Surge

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Tobacco Free Florida

The percentage of Floridians who smoke tobacco is at a record low, among both adults and teens.

But as Tobacco Free Florida celebrates its 10th anniversary, advocates are wary of kids’ picking up nicotine addictions from e-cigarettes instead.

After 10 years of anti-smoking ads, school outreach, and smoking-cessation help, just under 16 in every 100 adult Floridians are still lighting up. Over the same time period, tobacco use among teens and pre-teens fell from nearly 11 percent to 3 percent.

Tobacco Free Jacksonville Director Heather Sciartelli says the drastic youth smoking drop is cause to celebrate. But since 2012, the percent of Duval county young people who use e-cigarettes has tripled.

“It’s increasing at an alarming rate,” she said. “And why is that important? Because nicotine addiction is the driver for a lot of those health-related tobacco diseases that we see that cost our state and our nation so dearly.”

She says studies show kids who try e-cigarettes are more open to trying cigarettes later on. And there's no scientific proof they're effective in helping smokers quit, Sciartelli says. Instead, the CDC recommends a combination of counseling and nicotine weaning through gums or patches. That's what Tobacco Free Florida offers for free. 

Tobacco Free Florida’s programs are funded with lawsuit-settlement money from cigarette makers because voters approved a constitutional amendment. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP