East Hawaii News

DOH: E-Cigarette Usage Climbing Among Public School Students

December 10, 2014, 5:43 PM HST
* Updated December 10, 5:44 PM
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Non-traditional tobacco products, especially e-cigarettes, are growing in popularity among public school students attending state middle and high schools.

According to the Hawai’i Youth Tobacco Survey, lifetime e-cigarette usage made a drastic jump among high schoolers. In 2011, 5.1 percent of those students anonymously said that they used e-cigarettes. Two years later, the total more than tripled to 17.6 percent.

Almost a third of high schoolers (31.7 percent) who say they have used e-cigarettes have never tried a traditional cigarette. More respondents, 36.7 percent, say they had used both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes within 30 days of taking the survey.

Results state that 31.6 percent of those students had not used a regular cigarette within 30 days of the survey.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in our Islands. 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 DOH Tobacco Prevention and Education Program.

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The vaporizers have also seen increasing usage among middle school students. In 2011, just 1.8 percent of those students admitted to using them. That number has more than quadrupled to 7.9 percent in just two years.

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Of those middle school students, 38.4 percent had said that they had used regular cigarettes in the past but not within the last 30 days. A smaller percentage, 33.2 percent, had never tried a traditional cigarette, but 28.4 percent had used both within thirty days of the survey.

“Evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are being used by students who are not cigarette smokers,” said Tonya Lowery St. John, Epidemiologist for DOH’s 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.”

Current e-cigarette users represent 10 percent of public high school students and 5.5 percent of middle schoolers.

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E-cigarette usage in Hawai’i among students is drastically higher than the rest of the country. Three percent of middle schoolers and 11 percent of high schoolers across the country are lifetime e-cigarette users.

Participation in the survey is voluntary. A total of 1,980 middle school students (67.2 percent) and 1,455 high school students (60.4 percent) decided to answer questions to the survey, administered by the Department of Health and Department of Education.

Coincidentally, students say that they are getting targeted by tobacco companies through text messages, social media, mail, e-mail, and the internet. The survey revealed that 12.7 percent of middle school students and 8.8 percent of high school students received ads through these vehicles. Some of these students, 7.9 percent from middle school and 6.6 percent from high school, say they received ads from these tobacco companies within 30 days of the survey.

The next survey will be conducted next year. Officials say that new questions will be added based on this year’s answers.

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