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MDH - New Survey shows Minnesota youth tobacco use rising for the first time in 17 years

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New survey shows Minnesota youth tobacco use rising for the first time in 17 years

Youth e-cigarette use up 50 percent since 2014

A new survey shows that for the first time since 2000, overall youth tobacco use has increased in Minnesota with 26.4 percent of high school students using some form of tobacco or nicotine, up from 24.6 percent in 2014.

The rapid uptake of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices has quickly reversed a long-term trend of declining teen tobacco use in Minnesota, according to new results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The new data show 1 in 5 high school students use e-cigarettes, a nearly 50 percent increase since the data were last collected in 2014. At the same time, youth cigarette smoking has reached an all-time low. Less than 10 percent of high school students now smoke cigarettes – a 70 percent drop since 2000.

“E-cigarettes and similar devices threaten to reverse our success in preventing youth from using tobacco products,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Just as we successfully reduced cigarette use to under 10 percent of high school students, giving us the hope that a smoke-free generation was within reach, the industry responded with new products designed to get youth addicted to nicotine.” 

As e-cigarettes attract more youth into tobacco use, they create a disturbing cycle of addiction and harm to adolescents. One-fifth of Minnesota youth using e-cigarettes have never smoked or used conventional tobacco such as cigarettes or chew.

The latest research shows teens who try e-cigarettes are almost twice as likely to start smoking cigarettes as teens who do not try them. The Minnesota data also revealed a new public health concern – teens are using e-cigarette devices for recreational marijuana and other illicit substances. One in 3 high school students who use e-cigarettes report trying the device with recreational marijuana. Nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to tobacco and substances like illicit drugs.

“E-cigarette use is especially dangerous for youth,” said Dr. Peter Dehnel, pediatrician and medical director with Twin Cities Medical Society. “It provides a platform for illicit drugs and for nicotine, which we know is highly addictive and can harm brain development as teens grow, impairing learning, memory and attention.”

Many communities are already taking action to protect youth. Cities and states across the nation, including many in Minnesota, are actively working to reduce youth access to these products through innovative policies, such as increasing the minimum tobacco sales age to 21, restricting where menthol and flavored tobacco are sold, raising the price of tobacco, and strengthening compliance and enforcement efforts. To learn more, visit Tobacco Prevention and Control.

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