According to the 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), cigarette smoking among Winnebago County high school students is at an all-time low (9%), but e-cigarette use continues to rise. E-cigarette use has increased at an alarming rate from 21% of high school students in 2016 to 29% in 2018. While the low rates of cigarette smoking among high school students is great news, the rising rates of e-cigarette use among students is very concerning. E-cigs are addicting youth to nicotine that would not otherwise become addicted through cigarettes and are increasing use of other drugs like marijuana.
E-cigarettes, e-hookahs, electronic vapor products, and other vaping devices fall into the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) category. These devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some of which are very discrete and make it easy for youth to conceal. There are thousands of e-juices created in a variety of fruity, sweet, and candy flavors that appeal to youth. According to the 2018 Youth Tobacco Survey, 89% of teens say they wouldn’t use unflavored tobacco.
Despite all the recent vaping related injuries, the long term negative health effects of these products are still unknown. We as a community need to continue to reduce youth access to e-cigs, tobacco and other nicotine products, educate on the dangers associated with using these products, and prevent normalizing the use of these products.
Three of the key approaches we use to combat youth tobacco and other nicotine use are:
- The Wisconsin Wins campaign; a statewide initiative aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco and other nicotine products through retailer compliance checks. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services contracts with local partners, such as the Winnebago County Health Department, to conduct investigations to establish retailer compliance with the law. During these tobacco compliance checks, youth (aged 16-17 years) attempt to purchase tobacco and other nicotine products from retailers. If there is a sale, then education is provided to the retailer on the importance of proper ID checking. In 2018, 80 tobacco compliance checks were completed throughout Winnebago County. There were five sales to minors, totaling 6.3% of all checks. For more information about this program, visit http://www.wiwins.org/.
- The Winnebago FACT group is just one of almost 30 FACT youth tobacco prevention groups throughout Wisconsin. FACT is a peer-to-peer education initiative for grades 7-12 that teaches youth real life advocacy and leadership skills while they spread the truth about tobacco. For more information about this program, visit FACTmovement.org.
- Raise awareness of local and state policies related to tobacco and other nicotine products. Where are advertisements for these products allowed to be shown? How old does someone need to be to buy certain products? Can someone use an e-cigarette/vapor product in your favorite restaurant?
Next time you are at a gas station, grocery store, or pharmacy take a look at the different tobacco and nicotine products that are sold, the flavors available, the locations of these products in the store, and how they’re advertised. Connect with elected officials about the changes you would like to see in your community.
To keep up with all the various e-cigarette products and learn how to talk to your child about tobacco and nicotine, visit tobaccoischanging.com.
If a youth aged 16 or 17 you know is interested in participating in compliance checks, please contact Sarahjean Schluechtermann at firstname.lastname@example.org
The state Department of Health Services is now tracking 73 confirmed and probable cases of severe lung illnesses in people who reported vaping, with 15 more cases under investigation.