INDIANAPOLIS — A new report shows Indiana ranks seventh in the nation for e-cigarette use among adults.

A study from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation shows from 2016-21, the number of adults nationwide who used e-cigarettes increased by roughly 40%. In Indiana, however, that increase was roughly 70%. The study went on to say each e-cigarette user in the U.S. means an additional $2,000 in health care costs each year.

”We have a significant problem with vaping,” said Jami Carlson, a tobacco treatment specialist with the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

Carlson said 90% of e-cigarette users aged 18 and over that she helps are pregnant women.

”Most of them report starting e-cigarette use at the age of around 15,” Carlson said.

Vanderburgh County is one of 86 Indiana counties that opted into the state’s $225 million Health First Indiana Initiative. Carlson said the Vanderburgh County Health Department will roll out a program in the next several years to help area schools treat kids with nicotine addictions.

”We will talk to the children via telephone, and we will conduct our coaching with them with an online format,” Carlson said.

The new study also shows nearly 20% of Marion County 11th and 12th graders reported vaping in the past month (compared to 9% of all Indiana youth). Kendyll Matthews, a tobacco health educator with the Marion County Health Department, said officials are pushing schools to give kids the resources they need to quit.

”We are trying to get schools to move away from … doing more punitive measures like suspending them right away or expelling them,” Matthews said. “… That’s just not shown to reduce youth use.”

Shelby Jackson, a public health educator with the Vigo County Health Department, said Vigo County updated its indoor smoking ordinance earlier this month to include e-cigarettes. So far, Vigo is one of three counties in Indiana to introduce such a law.

”This is stream-railing the path for other counties to easily follow foot,” Jackson said.

Dr. Cynthia Meneghini, the Program Director of Family Medicine Residency for Community East Hospital in Indianapolis, said Indiana has some of the lowest tax rates on tobacco in the nation, and that the single most important factor that helps people quit is cost.

”We’ve tried to raise taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and the legislation just drags its feet while Hoosiers die essentially,” Meneghini said. “So, we could raise the cost of all these products — that would help immensely.”

The $225 million of the Health First Indiana Initiative will be divvied out throughout 2024 and 2025. Counties that did not opt into receiving funds in 2024 can still opt in to receiving funds in 2025 if they so choose.