COLUMBUS, Ohio - Health groups say there's a disconnect when it comes to the harmfulness of electronic cigarettes and their usage among Ohioans.
New data from the 2018 Ohio Health Issues Poll shows that nearly half of Ohio adults between ages 18 to 29 have tried e-cigarettes, as well as 30 percent of adults ages 30 to 45.
And while e-cigarettes are believed to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes, Mary Makley Wolff, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Clermont County, says they still contain nicotine and other unknown substances.
"We've created a product to which we don't really know what the long-term effects are and we're marketing it in a way that's very appealing to young people with flavors, and marketing on the Internet and putting it out where kids can get very easy accessibility to it," she states.
Over all, about 23 percent of Ohio adults reported they have used an e-cigarette, which is lower than in 2017 but still higher than the national average.
Wolff says it's important to track data on e-cigarette use because nicotine is highly addictive and can impede brain development in children and teens.
And she says addressing e-cigarette use is a key component of work to reduce tobacco use.
"The perception is that this is acceptable and safe for kids," she states. "The fact of the matter is you're inhaling aerosol.
"I can't think of at any time putting anything in your lungs outside of oxygen is a harmless endeavor."
Eight states have an excise tax on the vapor used in electronic cigarettes.
Opponents argue such taxes discourage the use of e-cigarettes, which some consider less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
However Wolff points out e-cigarettes can be used almost anywhere, which can increase nicotine addiction.
"I had a colleague who said he noticed that he was feeling very anxious during the day and really started realizing that he was vaping more than he ever smoked," she relates. "So then you're dealing with the side effects of nicotine which can be elevated heart rate, anxiety. "
The Ohio Health Issues Poll, released by Interact for Health, also asked about imposing a state tax on e-cigarettes, similar to the $1.60 per pack tax on traditional cigarettes.
Nearly 6-in-10 Ohio adults in the poll supported such a tax.