This year’s Indiana Youth Survey determined that fewer high school students are using tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes. However, one in four of the state’s 12th-graders had used an electronic vapor cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, in the month before taking the survey.
“This new tobacco delivery system technology is being heavily used by our youth in Indiana, and we’ve really got to pay attention to that,” said Ruth Gassman, executive director of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, which conducted the survey.
The survey, which was formerly called the annual Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents, was distributed to 111,585 students in sixth through 12th grades at 324 public and private schools in Indiana. It was the first time the survey included a question about the students’ use of e-cigarettes.
About 15 percent of students in seventh to 12th grade said they used vaping products at least once in the month before taking the survey. More students in Indiana used e-cigarettes than the national average for students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades. Those students also used e-cigarettes more than other tobacco products.
This finding is important not just because we know that nicotine is addictive, no matter how it is delivered. In addition, we still do not know what chemical compounds are contained in the vapors. As important, though, is a finding that indicates using e-cigarettes can lead to later tobacco use.
In a study at 10 Los Angeles high schools, University of Southern California researchers found that 14-year-olds who’d ever tried e-cigarettes were more likely than others to later try other tobacco products. The government-funded study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doesn’t prove that electronic cigarettes are a “gateway drug,” but some doctors say it bolsters arguments that the devices need to be strictly regulated.
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and would add the devices to the list of tobacco products it regulates.
The federal rules need to be expedited. In addition, state lawmakers and local councils need to update their rules to cover e-cigarettes.
Ultimately, though, it will be awareness and education that will help teenagers resist the lure of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
Teenagers increasingly are opting for electronic cigarettes.
Educational efforts need to stress the dangers of nicotine no matter how it’s delivered.