In August findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey were released and they were stark.
The survey of high school and middle school students in Hawaii showed an increase in youth e-cigarette use. Nearly one in three high school students (30.6 percent) used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, an increase from 25.5 percent in 2017. Additionally, the percentage of frequent high school users doubled (5.1 percent in 2017 to 10.4 percent in 2019) and daily e-cigarette use has more than doubled (3.5 percent in 2017 to 7.9 percent in 2019).
“Youth smoking in Hawaii has decreased dramatically over the last ten years, but the opposite alarming trend is happening with e-cigarette use,” said Lola Irvin, administrator of the Hawai‘i Department of Health Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division in responding to the new data. “More of our keiki are using e-cigarettes, and the significant increase of frequent and daily use indicates they are addicted. While our Tobacco Prevention and Education program is improving education for teens and parents on the harms of e-cigarette use and providing resources to quit, this is only one part of the solution. This public health crisis requires policy change.”
hero_image_alt_text===A table with a variety of e-cigarettes laid out to look at.
thumbnail_alt_text===A table with a variety of e-cigarettes laid out to look at.
Dr. Bryan Mih, a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Medical Director of Kapiolani Smokefree Families, shared his concern about the increase in youth e-cigarette use in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that e-cigarette use is linked to a substantially increased risk of contracting COVID-19 among youth.
Citing this critical study, Dr. Mih warns youth, “If you use e-cigarettes, you are five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. If you both vape and smoke regular cigarettes, your risk is seven times higher.”
Similar to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on marginalized populations, data from the 2019 YRBS report is evidence that Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth experience the greatest burden from the highest rate of e-cigarette use, at 39.5 percent.
“The deliberate targeting by the tobacco industry against Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth underscores a systemic rift in our state and across the nation,” said Josh Ching, a member of the Hawaii Public Health Institute’s Youth Council. “The tobacco industry has been using flavors, like Hawaiian POG and Hawaii Sweet Roll, tailormade to entice Hawaii’s youth. As a young Native Hawaiian, this issue hits close to home. The youth vaping epidemic is as much a threat to the lāhui as any other, and until we realize that, until we do something about it, it will only persist.”
If you are concerned that your child might be using e-cigarettes, please make an appointment with your pediatrician and go to the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline for support. The American Heart Association’s QuitLying.org, the Hawaii Public Health Institute’s 808NoVape.org, and the FlavorsHookKidsHI.org campaigns have additional information on how to have a productive conversation with your child.
The 2020 legislative session is over but we have not given up and fully intend to keep working on tobacco issues during the 2021 legislative session. Thank you for your support!