MADISON, WI – Fewer Wisconsin youth are smoking cigarettes than ever before, but more of them are reporting using e-cigarettes, according to the 2016 Youth Tobacco Survey, a report released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The survey found 8.1 percent of Wisconsin’s high school students are current smokers, compared to 13.3 percent of high school students currently using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes also appear to be more popular among middle school students, with 2.6 percent of Wisconsin middle school students reporting using e-cigarettes compared to only 1.3 percent currently smoking cigarettes.
Both middle and high school students say flavors are what attracted them to e-cigarettes. According to the report, 88 percent of high school students and 96 percent of middle school students say they probably would not or definitely would not try an e-cigarette if it did not have any flavor such as mint, candy, fruit, or chocolate.
“We’re very alarmed by this trend,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown. “It’s great that fewer youth are smoking, but it’s very troubling that candy and fruit flavors are luring more kids into giving e-cigarettes a try.” One reason for concern stems from the fact that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can alter brain development, making kids more susceptible to addiction. In addition, two other chemicals found in some e-cigarettes (diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione) have been shown to cause serious lung damage.
A new report released last week from Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO shows that kids who use flavored e-cigarettes are more likely to want to try conventional cigarettes. The report also showed that kids that smoke and also use flavored e-cigarettes are less likely to want to quit.
“Even as we celebrate the incredible success we’ve had in reducing youth smoking in Wisconsin from as high as 33 percent in 2000 to less than 10 percent today, we can’t ignore the fact that an increasing number of youth are turning to these candy and fruit flavored products that we still know so little about,” McKeown said. “We have to stay committed to keeping our kids tobacco and nicotine-free,” said McKeown.
For more on youth tobacco use in Wisconsin, visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/tobacco. Additional information on e-cigarettes is available here.