Maui News

E-Cigarette Use by Hawai‘i Teens on the Rise

December 30, 2014, 8:25 AM HST
* Updated December 30, 8:30 AM
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E-Cig. Photo by Wendy Osher.

E-Cig. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

The latest results of the Hawai‘i Youth Tobacco Survey reveal that use of electronic cigarettes by the state’s public middle and high school students is steadily increasing.

Though traditional tobacco use by Hawai‘i teens has decreased over the last 10 years, lifetime use of e-cigarettes has reportedly tripled among high school students between 2011 and 2013, rising from 5.1 percent to 17.6 percent. Among middle school students, the number has quadrupled, jumping from 1.8 percent to 7.9 percent in the same time period, according to the survey.

“As a state, we have made great progress to reduce tobacco use among youth, but we are seeing alarming trends in the use of non-traditional tobacco products that we need to monitor vigilantly,” said Lila Johnson, manager of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) Tobacco Prevention and Education Program.

“Evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are being used by students who are not cigarette smokers,” said Tonya Lowery St. John, epidemiologist for DOH Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “More than a third of middle school students and almost a third of high school students who currently smoke e-cigarettes have never even tried a traditional cigarette.”

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The YTS revealed that among high school e-cigarette users, 31.7 percent have never smoked a tobacco cigarette, 31.6 percent have tried them, but haven’t smoked one in the last 30 days, and 36.7 percent have smoked both electronic and tobacco cigarettes in the last 30 days.

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For middle school student e-cigarette users, 33.2 percent have never smoked a tobacco cigarette, 38.4 percent have tried tobacco cigarettes but not in the last 30 days, and 28.4 percent have smoked both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes in the last 30 days. The survey also showed that in addition to e-cigarettes, use of non-traditional tobacco products like tobacco in water pipes (or hookahs), and roll-your-own cigarettes are being increasingly used and experimented with by teens.

The YTS indicates that teens in Hawai‘i are using e-cigarettes more than their Mainland counterparts. In 2013, lifetime e-cigarette use was 3 percent for Mainland middle school students and 11 percent for high schools. Hawai‘i compared at 7.9 percent for middle school students, and 17.9 percent for high school students.

Survey results also showed that students are encountering fewer warning messages about the dangers of smoking on TV, the Internet, and radio. Additionally, a sizable number of middle school and high school students are encountering ads and coupons from tobacco companies through mail, e-mail, Internet, Facebook, Myspace, or text messages.

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The YTS is administered by both the Hawai‘i State Department of Health and Department of Education in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey is conducted biennially or on odd-numbered years at Hawai‘i public middle schools grades six through eight, and high schools grades nine through 12. Student participation is voluntary. The overall participation rate for students in 2013 was estimated at 67.2 percent and 60.4 percent for middle schools and high schools respectively.

The CDC averages YTS results to represent all public school students in Hawai‘i.

More detailed data by state, sex, grade, and ethnicity can be found online at www.hhdw.org.

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