MAJORITY OF ARKANSAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE NOT USING E-CIGARETTES

May 8, 2020

By: Lindsey Stroud

​KEY POINTS:

  • Data from the Arkansas 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicate that a majority of high school students are not using e-cigarette products.

    • 24.3 percent of Arkansas high school students reported using an e-cigarette or vapor product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey.

    • 10.1 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes on 20 or more days

    • 8.5 percent reported daily e-cigarette use.

  • Youth combustible cigarette use continues to decline. Only 9.7 percent of students reported cigarette use on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior the survey and only 1.5 percent cited daily cigarette use.

  • The findings are significant as many policymakers have alluded to a so-called epidemic of youth vaping as reasoning to regulate, tax, and in some cases, outright ban tobacco harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes and vapor products.

  • One policy is to ban flavors, other than menthol and tobacco, in e-cigarettes, but flavors are significantly underrepresented in studies on reasons why youth use vapor products.

  • A May 2020 survey found that only 4.7 percent of respondents between the ages of 14 and 24 years old, cited “flavors” as a reason for e-cigarette use, compared to 62.2 percent that cited social reasons.

  • Numerous public health agencies have found e-cigarettes to be significantly less harmful than combustible cigarettes.

Data from the Arkansas 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicate that a majority of high school students are not using e-cigarette products. According to the survey results, only 24.3 percent of Arkansas high school students reported using an e-cigarette or vapor product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey. Only 10.1 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes on 20 or more days and 8.5 percent reported daily e-cigarette use.

Further, youth combustible cigarette use continues to decline. Only 9.7 percent of students reported cigarette use on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior the survey and only 1.5 percent cited daily cigarette use. These statistics are significantly lower than in 1997 when 43.2 percent of students used cigarettes at least once in the 30 days prior and 18.3 percent that used cigarettes daily.

The findings are significant as many policymakers have alluded to a so-called epidemic of youth vaping as reasoning to regulate, tax, and in some cases, outright ban tobacco harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes and vapor products.

Although policymakers’ intentions to reduce youth e-cigarette use are laudable, many policies are ineffective at reducing youth vapor use and do not reflect the data as to why youth are using e-cigarettes.

For example, one policy is to ban flavors, other than menthol and tobacco, in e-cigarettes, but flavors are significantly underrepresented in studies on reasons why youth use vapor products. For example, a May 2020 survey found that only 4.7 percent of respondents between the ages of 14 and 24 years old, cited “flavors” as a reason for e-cigarette use, compared to 62.2 percent that cited social reasons.

In 2019, only 4.5 percent of Rhode Island high school students reported flavors as reasons for e-cigarette use. In the same year, only 10 percent of Vermont high school students cited “available in many flavors” as the primary reason for vapor product use. In 2018, only 3.2 percent of Maryland high school students reported “available in flavors” as a main reason to use vapor products. Flavors were also not the main reason for youth e-cigarette use among high school students in Connecticut, Hawaii, and Virginia, according to 2017 youth surveys.

Other policies include taxing e-cigarettes in an effort to reduce youth e-cigarette use, but such draconian policies have little to no effect on youth vapor product use, while simultaneously reduce adult access to tobacco harm reduction products. For example, in 2016, the Pennyslvania General Assembly passed a 40 percent wholesale floor tax on e-cigarettes. Within a year, an estimated 120 vape shops closed in the commonwealth. Moreover, youth vaping increased after the tax was implemented.

According to the 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), 15.5 percent of middle and high schoolers in Pennsylvania reported use of e-cigarettes within the past 30 days or that they had used an e-cigarette at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. For 10th and 12th graders, 20.4 percent and 27 percent, respectively, reported using a vaping device within a 30-day period prior to the survey.

In 2017, PAYS found e-cigarette use had increased; 16.3 percent of middle and high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. Notably, vaping rates increased to 21.9 percent and 29.3 percent of 10th and 12th graders, respectively. 

Bans and taxes reduce the potential of e-cigarettes and vaping devices as a tobacco harm reduction tools, which numerous public health agencies have found to be significantly less

harmful than combustible cigarettes.

 

In 2015, Public Health England (PHE), a leading health agency in the United Kingdom, found e-cigarette use to be “around 95% safer than smoking.” In 2018, PHE reiterated their findings, noting that vaping is “at least 95% less harmful than smoking.”

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians noted that e-cigarettes are “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.” In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded e-cigarette use results in “reduced short-term adverse health outcomes in several organs.”

Most recently, in June 2019, the American Cancer Society found “e-cigarette use [is] significantly less harmful for adults than smoking regular cigarettes […] because e-cigarettes do not contain or burn tobacco.”  

It is imperative policymakers not react with kneejerk measures to youth e-cigarette use. The data does not indicate there is an epidemic of e-cigarette addiction among youth, but rather curiosity and social pressures that have always existed among young persons. Further, rather than restricting adult access to tobacco harm reduction products, lawmakers should promote their use as an alternative to combustible cigarettes.

 

Nothing in this analysis is intended to is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of Tobacco Harm Reduction 101. For more information on vapor products in Arkansas, please visit Tobacco Harm Reduction 101’s Arkansas page at www.thr101.org/arkansas.

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©2020 by Tobacco Harm Reduction 101.