SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah health leaders released a new study Monday showing a dramatic increase in teens using e-cigarettes.
The Utah Department of Health says they have the numbers to back up what they see as a disturbing trend. More teens are becoming nicotine addicts by using e-cigarettes rather than conventional cigarettes.
Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, stood with public health advocates from across the state to roll out the findings of a 2015 study on e-cigarette use by teens.
Nearly 23% of teens in grades 8th through 12th have tried electronic cigarettes, that’s up from 12% in 2013.
In the past 30 days, 10.5% of teens have used e-cigarettes.
While teen use of e-cigarettes have nearly doubled, adult rates have stayed below 5%.
22% of teens are bumming them off of someone else.
Nearly 21% are buying them from a convenience store and nearly 12% are purchasing them online.
Veronica Ford is a high school student involved in the Youth Anti-Tobacco Group. She was at today’s event and talked about the appeal of e-cigarettes among teens.
“The e-cigarettes do look cool and a lot of students at my school think that it`s just water vapor.”
E-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Health advocates worry e-cigarettes could act as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.
“It becomes potentially an electronic drug delivery device of other drugs not just nicotine,” said Dr. Miner.
Tad Jensen is the President of Utah Smoke Free Association.
He says the vapor industry supports regulation, such as placing child safety caps on nicotine liquids.
But he’s concerned too many restrictions could create a black market.
“When you put those regulations in place where a lot of these e-liquids come from out of state, California, back east, all over the us, they`re not going to change their entire label for one state,” said Jensen.
State health leaders are also looking at tightening up restrictions of online purchases. Their fear is that producers of nicotine liquids aren’t producing them in a safe way. For example, they’ve had people mix liquids in their bathtubs and sinks.
There are some efforts being made on a local level around the state. Health leaders agree education is their best weapon. In the Weber-Morgan Health District, they have the highest rate of teen use in the state at 20%. Because of efforts they’ve made in schools, and public awareness campaigns, they’ve dropped that number to 15% in the past year.
For a look at the full report, click here.