E-Cigarette Use in Teens Increases 300%

Close up of a woman inhaling from an electronic cigarette

E-cigarettes now the most commonly abused drug among youth

WASHINGTON COUNTY, UT – Results of the 2015 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment youth survey have been released and show a 300% increase in teens using electronic cigarettes, surpassing alcohol as the most commonly abused drug among youth. From 2013 to 2015, the 30-day use rate of e-cigarettes among high school seniors increased from 3.6% to 14.3%, with about 31% of 12th graders reporting having experimented with the drug delivery device.
Kye Nordfelt, Health Promotions Director for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, is concerned about the impact of youth e-cigarette use in the community. “With 1 in 3 teens experimenting with e-cigarettes, this will have an effect on all of us,” he says. “These teens are in our schools, congregations, and families.”

“This 300% increase in electronic cigarette use is unprecedented,” says Logan Reid, Director of Prevention at Southwest Behavioral Health Center. “I don’t remember the data ever showing such a sharp rise in the use of one drug in such a short period of time. And the scariest part about this trend is that youth are smoking more than just nicotine through these devices.”

The main drug used in e-cigarettes is nicotine (a product of tobacco), which on its own is extremely addictive, often setting kids on a course for years of addiction.  Since e-cigarettes provide a convenient drug delivery system, local law enforcement officers are now finding youth and adults using marijuana and other liquefied drugs in these devices.  Currently, the contents and sale of e-cigarettes are largely unregulated and are not taxed as a tobacco product. E-cigarettes are attractive to youth by the very nature of their technology, are promoted as less harmful, and include a wide variety of appealing flavors They are easily accessed in areas with heavy teen traffic and have no ingredient labels.

  “Over the past 40 or so years we have witnessed a gradual decline in tobacco use,” Nordfelt states. “But now we are seeing nicotine usage skyrocket in the form of e-cigarettes. Increased consumption by teens is especially troubling, and we want to do all we can to help our community curb this trend.”

The health department is offering free e-cigarette presentations for parents and youth groups, covering the health risks of using these products and how to prevent further use by teens. Call Kye at 435-986-2593 to schedule a presentation.

 

Personal Stories:

Abigail Dickie, a senior at Snow Canyon High School and president of the Washington County Youth Coalition, says that kids talk about e-cigarettes all the time. “I have several friends who vape. They are really appealing to youth, and it’s scary how businesses market them toward us because there aren’t regulations on how they advertise, like there are on regular cigarettes.”  Orion Parker, who also lives in Washington County, witnessed how his use of e-cigarettes influenced his seven-year-old son. Orion explains, “My son saw me using the device and asked if he could try it.  I told him absolutely not and tried to make sure he didn’t see me using it after that.  One weekend, when I came home from a business trip, I picked up my son from my grandma’s, and she told me how my son had told her when he grows up he wants to smoke that cool e-cigarette just like his dad.”  Parker did not want his son addicted to nicotine; he subsequently quit cold turkey and had a long chat with his son about the harms of tobacco products.

Michelle (name has been changed), a Washington County resident, is a mother of four who is deeply involved in her busy kids’ lives, active in her faith, and like many parents, never thought her teenage son would use an addictive substance.  “I was unaware that my son was addicted to nicotine when he was arrested for having an electronic cigarette – it was so easy for him to hide his use from me, as the smell was often not present.  As he began using tobacco products, he totally changed, all of his values and friends changed.  I tried to protect him, but even at 14 he has had no problem getting e-cigarettes.” She continues,“The other thing I hadn’t realized is that e-cigarettes can be used to smoke other things like marijuana. My son had denied using any nicotine products and insisted that e-cigarettes were harmless, but I’ve since learned that isn’t the case.  Now there is a lack of trust between us and we’re worried about what he could be doing to himself.”