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Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey: Good News and Bad

Vaping among Wisconsin teens is on the rise, state data show. (ookean/iStockPhoto)
Vaping among Wisconsin teens is on the rise, state data show. (ookean/iStockPhoto)
November 21, 2016

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – The latest surveys on youth tobacco use in Wisconsin have just been released by the state Department of Health Services.

One of the strongest factors in young people's decisions to use e-cigarettes is that they are flavored, and according to the data, 96 percent of middle school students and nearly 88 percent of high school students say the flavoring is what appeals to them.

Ella Hopkins, youth tobacco prevention control coordinator with the American Lung Association of Wisconsin, says the trends are mixed among middle school students.

"We've seen a decrease in the use of conventional cigarettes,” she points out. “From 2014 it was 1.6 percent. Now in 2016, we're seeing a use of 1.3 percent, but we are seeing a rise in the use of e-cigarettes."

Hopkins says the trends are similar for Wisconsin high school students, but more than 13 percent now say they use e-cigarettes.

A third of the high school students who smoke or vape say they want to quit, and more than half say they've tried to quit in the past year.

According to Hopkins, there's another disturbing trend among young people – they're smoking fewer cigarettes, but the use of other regular tobacco products, such as cigars and cigarillos, is on the rise.

"In many schools throughout Wisconsin, youth are being enticed to – you wouldn't want to smoke a cigarette, but a grape-flavored cigarillo, which is typically a much lower cost, is a little bit more enticing, and more geared towards a youth perspective," she relates.

Nearly one in five Wisconsin middle school and high school students lives in homes where he or she is exposed to secondhand smoke.

Hopkins says much more education about tobacco products is needed, since many young people mistakenly believe that vaping is safe. She adds it's information that is easy to find.

"They can head on over to lung.org, which is the American Lung Association's website, as well as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services,” she explains. “There are always resources there available to anyone who's interested in learning more."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI