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E-Cig Use is Skyrocketing among NYS Youth

Written By Editor on 1/23/18 | 1/23/18

The good news is that due to tobacco control measures, the current smoking rate among adults in New York State is 14.2 percent. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the percent of New York State youth who have ever tried and currently use e-cigarettes doubled from 2014 to 2016 according to recently released data in the NYS Youth Tobacco Survey. Electronic cigarettes and similar devices (also referred to as e-cigarettes, vape pens, mods, and e-hookahs) are the most frequently used tobacco products among New York State youth. E-cigarettes typically deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives to users via an inhaled aerosol.

Among middle school students, the rate increased from 6.9 percent to 14.1 percent and among high school students, the rate increased from 21.6 percent to 43.8 percent. The percent of youth who currently use e-cigarettes and similar devices, defined as past-30-day use, also doubled from 2014 to 2016. Among middle school students, the rate increased from 3.2 percent to 6.4 percent and among high school students it increased from 10.5 percent to 20.6 percent.

E-cigarette use among youth is a major public health concern. Nicotine is addictive and has lasting consequences for youth brain development including impaired cognitive functioning and the development of addiction pathways in the brain. Studies confirm that e-cigarette use among youth is associated with both intention to smoke cigarettes and subsequent cigarette smoking among adolescents and young adults. Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease locally, statewide and across the nation. The smoking rates in the Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie region are 22.9 percent for Delaware County, 26.3 percent for Otsego County and 19.3 percent for Schoharie County.

In 2017, Advancing Tobacco Free Communities conducted a telephone-based survey of people in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie Counties in cooperation with applied psychology majors at SUNY Cobleskill. 40 to 45 percent of survey respondents across all three counties felt they did not know enough about e-cigarettes/vape pens to say whether they thought they were more or less harmful than regular cigarettes. 31 percent of those sampled believed that e-cigarettes/vape pens were equally as harmful as regular combustible tobacco; however, 13 percent of the sample felt that e-cigarettes/vape pens were less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that the use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth and young adults, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. The U.S. Surgeon General has also concluded that e-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine. E-cigarette products can also be used as a delivery system for to marijuana and other illicit drugs. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime young brains for addiction to other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Almost all e-cigarette products sold in convenience stores and similar retail outlets contain nicotine. With or without nicotine, e-cigarettes are not hazard-free and the inhaled emission may contain heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and other toxic chemicals. E-cigarettes are available in a wide variety of flavors, including many that are particularly appealing to youth. More than 85 percent of e-cigarette users ages 12-17 use flavored e-cigarettes, and flavors are the leading reason for youth use.

“We know that secondhand e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless,” said Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., deputy director for research translation in Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health. “It’s critical to protect our nation’s youth from this preventable health risk.”

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