Luka Kinard

High Point, NC

When Luka Kinard started high school in 2017, e-cigarettes were already a pervasive part of the school’s culture. Eager to fit in, Luka first tried a Juul at his high school’s football game. The mango puff was quickly followed by an overwhelming nicotine rush; he was hooked “right away,” and says addiction set in within a matter of weeks. Mango and menthol became his preferred flavors.

The nicotine addiction came with serious side effects: He became uncharacteristically explosive and angry, his grades plummeted, and he started experiencing unexplained health scares. All of a sudden, he lost interest in lifelong hobbies like Boy Scouts, fishing and sports. He even started selling his clothes to afford the costs of his addiction. His parents knew he needed help, but treatment options are very limited for teenagers with severe nicotine addiction. They eventually found a residential program where Luka stayed for 40 days, receiving treatment and therapy to beat his addiction.

After quitting, Luka was back to his old self and also found a new cause. He and his mom Kelly have been speaking out about his experience to the media, policy makers and youth across the country. Their goal is to prevent other youth from becoming addicted to kid and help end the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

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