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Vaping has become increasingly popular in recent years as cigarette use has declined. (Contributed photo/Regional News)

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently relaunched its “Tobacco is Changing” campaign, which focuses on educating parents about candy-flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, that are tempting kids into tobacco addiction.

Michelle Sandberg, coordinator of the KRW Tobacco-Free Coalition, believes the campaign couldn’t come at a better time.

The coalition focuses its efforts in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties.

“Youth vaping has reached epidemic levels in our community,” said Sandberg. “Schools are struggling to educate staff, parents, and students quickly enough, and the products are changing faster than we can get the information out.”

The relaunch of the campaign follows the release of 2018 data showing meteoric rises in e-cigarette use among both middle and high school youth. From 2014 to 2018, e-cigarette use increased 272 percent among middle school students and 154 percent among high school students. Currently, one in five Wisconsin high school students currently use e-cigarettes.

“Tobacco is Changing” originally launched in late fall of 2017. One major adjustment the campaign made in its newest batch of ads is addressing the rise of new e-cigarettes that more closely resemble flash drives than they do cigarettes or traditional e-cigarettes. In one of the campaign’s new ads, a flash drive look-a-like e-cigarette product is shown with the text “Not a flash drive, parents.”

“Lack of education about the dangers of e-cigarettes is truly the heart of this issue. Parents may think the products are safe, and kids are being duped into believing the targeted marketing and advertising efforts. Vaping devices and e-juices come in so many shapes and flavors appealing to youth that it’s silly to think that they wouldn’t be interested.”

Parents can learn more at www.TobaccoisChanging.com, where they can view the different types of tobacco products, read about issues like flavoring, packaging, and menthol, get tips for talking to their kids, and even get connected with their local tobacco prevention and control coalition.

The KRW Tobacco-Free Coalition is on Facebook @KRWTobaccoFree or at email Michelle Sandberg at KRW@HopeCouncil.org. The KRW Tobacco-Free Coalition also reminds all tobacco users that free help is available by calling the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669). Individuals enrolled in Medicaid can also talk to their doctor about the free services offered through the Medicaid Cessation Benefit.