HARTFORD, CT — One out of seven Connecticut high school students reported vaping in 2017, according to a new study released by the state Department of Public Health (DPH), a number that is double the amount that was vaping just two years ago.
A total of 14.7 percent of high school students reported vaping in 2017, compared to 7.2 percent in 2015.
In contrast, 3.5 percent of high schoolers reported currently smoking traditional cigarettes in 2017.
DPH compiled the 2017 report using data collected from March to June 2017. The state defines “current use” as having used a product at least once in 30 days.
The survey found 1 in 10 ninth graders and over 1 in 5 12th graders currently vape.
The most prevalent reason given for starting use of these products was a friend or family member used them and over half obtained them from a friend. Fruit, followed by mint or menthol, were the most popular flavors, and more than half used their devices for other substances, such as marijuana, THC or hash oil, or THC wax.
“These results are especially troubling because youth are generally unaware of the presence and level of nicotine in their devices and can become addicted with only a few puffs,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino said. “Although the cigarette smoking rate continues to decline among this age group, vaping continues to increase. Based on misleading claims about e-cigarettes, many teens believe they are trying a ‘safe’ product.”
It confirms what smoking prevention advocates already knew that “the use of e-cigarettes among our youth has reached epidemic proportions,” Bryte Johnson, director of governmental relations for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), said.
“We must ensure e cigarettes are included as part of statewide comprehensive tobacco control strategies that reduce tobacco use so our children can grow up not the next generation of tobacco users but as the first tobacco-free generation,” Johnson added.
According to a 2016 report by the Surgeon General, nicotine poses harm to teen brains, negatively affecting their development with long-term changes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently labeled youth e-cigarette use an epidemic and put the manufacturers on notice about potential actions they may take in order to reduce youth access and use.
One popular brand of vaping, Juul, contains the same amount of nicotine in one ‘pod’ as in a pack of cigarettes, and many teens report that they use one pod each day. These devices are shaped like a USB drive and are easily concealed, and teachers have reported use in the classroom while class is in session.
The survey also found that more than one quarter or 27.3 percent of high school students live with someone who uses tobacco, and 45 percent reported exposure to secondhand smoke or vaping aerosol.
“Preventing the initiation of tobacco use altogether, educating children and young adults on the dangers of ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Vaping System), and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosol are all very important for protecting children’s health,” added Pino.
Among the report’s findings were that among high school students who ever tried any tobacco product, 50 percent tried vaping first; 24 percent tried cigarettes first; and 13 percent tried cigars first.
The study further showed that 43.3 percent of male students who ever tried tobacco product first vaped and that among female students 57.1 percent who used tobacco products first use was vaping.
The study found that for high school students the prevalence of vaping is significantly higher among males or 25 percent than among females or 12.9 percent and did not vary significantly by grade.
“The statistics released by Connecticut’s Department of Public Health confirm what we have seen firsthand—vaping among teenagers is at an epidemic level,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said. “Big tobacco companies have immorally targeted our children with deceptive flavors and social media advertising with little regard for their health or safety.”
The Food and Drug Administration has stepped up enforcement, but more needs to be done, DeLauro said.
“At the top of that list, FDA should ban the more than 15,000 flavors that are currently on the market and crackdown on products that have been illegally sold without a premarket review,” DeLauro said. “Furthermore, Congress should immediately take up my legislation, the Stop Tobacco Sales to Youth Act, which would require age verification for the online sale and delivery of tobacco products.”