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Indiana teens demand legislative action against tobacco companies

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indiana is set to receive $15.7 million in settlement money for a multistate lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc., a vaping company.

Teens across the state say while they’re happy with the outcome, they want the settlement money to be used to stop tobacco companies from unethical advertising to kids.

“The marketing that tobacco companies [have], they spent like $300 million in Indiana alone,” said Nicole Liu, a high school senior and VOICE Youth Ambassador. “It’s just absolutely insane how they’re still allowed to market and do certain campaigns to specifically target kids in our community.”’

Dozens of teens came to the statehouse Wednesday for Youth Day of Action. However, barring marketing tactics is a difficult task.

“It becomes a really difficult decision because most of the companies don’t reside within Indiana,” explained Indiana State Senator Michael Crider. “And so it’s really hard to have leverage over them.” 

Liu and her fellow VOICE Youth Ambassador, Suhita Chintalacharuvu, say if marketing tactics can’t be controlled, they want the settlement money to go towards prevention efforts.

“I think it’s showing how deceptive they can be by specifically targeting on the insecurities of students and using that to make more money,” she said.

CDC data shows Indiana has seen between 100 and 149 deaths and hospitalizations related to e-cigarette use so far, according to the latest 2020 data.

“My grandfather, he passed away from lung cancer, like a couple years ago, so it’s just like, very personal,” Liu said.

I-Team 8 asked Indiana’s Department of Health Director of Tobacco Prevention and Cessation what policy changes the department was taking the lead on and how the settlement money should be used. The director did not specifically address the question.

“A lot of young people here today are active in their local communities, talking with school leaders,” said IDOH Director of Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, Miranda Spitzangle. “Encouraging their school leaders to be 100% tobacco free.”

Crider said there had not been decisions on how the settlement money would be allocated but says he is pushing for it to go towards prevention efforts.