“I Just Didn’t Know” is a peer education campaign on the dangers of youth vaping. | Screenshot from Vimeo

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky unveiled a statewide campaign to educate youths about the dangers of vaping on Monday.

The “I Just Didn’t Know” campaign features public service announcements about the trendy and potentially dangerous habit, which the U.S. Surgeon General has deemed to be “epidemic” among youths.

The initiative includes a website at www.ijustdidntknow.org as well as a YouTube channel and Instagram page showcasing the PSAs, which challenge the idea that e-cigarettes are no big deal when it comes to health.

“Kids think e-cigs are safe because that’s exactly how they’ve been marketed,” the foundation’s president and chief executive, Ben Chandler, said in a news release. “But the truth is that they are very harmful to youth because they are chock-full of nicotine, which is extremely addictive.”

The PSAs, which feature Kentucky students and at least one teacher, include messages like: “I could get addicted to this. I’m only 11 years old … I just didn’t know.”

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the existence of e-cigarette flavors like cotton candy, chocolate ice cream and watermelon show that youths are a target audience.

“The more awareness we bring to the fact that these products are just nicotine disguised as desserts, the better chance we have at ending this surge in use among our middle and high school students.”

The campaign comes on the heels of an announcement last week by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell that he plans to introduce legislation to increase the minimum age of purchasing electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 nationwide.

Darla Carter

Darla Carter

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.