By: Susan Vileta, Health Educator
The 2018 Iowa Youth Survey data was released in February 2019, and unfortunately, there was a large increase in the use of electronic cigarettes (vape products like JUUL) by 11th graders in the last two years. (See pages 21-27 for tobacco and electronic cigarette use responses.) The use of e-cigarettes among this age group rose from 10.9% in 2016 to 22% in 2018.
This was not a surprise to me for two reasons. First, the national data released at the end of 2018 showed current e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students during the past year, from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018. Second, I am frequently in middle school and high school classrooms in Johnson County talking about the harms caused by using tobacco and vaping products and students and educators have told me how many teenagers are currently using these products. They are using them in school bathrooms and even in the classroom because they are easy to hide and use almost unnoticeably. Many see them as harmless and either do not understand there is nicotine in them or do not realize how harmful nicotine is to their developing brains.
Along with the ease of use, the marketing tactics including colorful ads with young models on social media, misleading information on health effects, the candy flavors and high nicotine content, it is not difficult to figure out why youth use rates have soared. Fortunately, Johnson County Public Health educated local municipalities about these products over the last several years and cities have taken steps to lessen the influence of these products by passing ordinances prohibiting their use in all of the same places traditional cigarette smoking is prohibited. We continue to educate the public and work toward eliminating the harms caused by tobacco and nicotine dependence.
Susan Vileta is Johnson County Public Health’s Health Educator focused on tobacco prevention and control.
To see the full Iowa Youth Survey Report, go here: http://www.iowayouthsurvey.iowa.gov/images/2018_State/IYS%202018%20State%20Report.pdf