CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The use of electronic cigarettes has increased by 65 percent among sophomores and by 45 percent among seniors in Illinois high schools over the past two years, a new survey reports.
About 18 percent of 10th-grade students reported smoking e-cigarettes during the prior month, compared with slightly more than 11 percent of these students in 2016, according to this year’s Illinois Youth Survey.
Among high school seniors, e-cigarette use surged to nearly 27 percent, up from slightly more than 18 percent two years ago, the survey found.
E-cigarette smoking among eighth-graders increased from 6.4 percent to 7.4 percent over the last two years, according to the survey.
“Our survey rarely registers increases of this magnitude among any of our measures of illicit youth substance use,” said Scott Hays, a senior research scientist at the University of Illinois Center for Prevention Research and Development, which conducts the survey. “This increased use of e-cigarettes among Illinois teens reverses great strides that were made in reducing tobacco use among youths over many years. Now we suddenly see rates of e-cigarette use of nearly 27 percent among this group. This sets youth tobacco control programs backward more than 10 years.”
More than 11,200 teens participated in the 2018 survey, which was funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery.
Hays said self-reported cigarette smoking among high school seniors has declined significantly in every survey that the center conducted over the past decade. In 2008, about 21 percent of high school seniors reported that they were cigarette smokers, compared with slightly more than 5 percent this year.
In this year’s survey, about 2.4 percent of 10th-grade students reported that they had smoked conventional cigarettes during the prior month, down from 3.4 percent in 2016.
The upward trend in e-cigarette smoking is introducing new users to the habit – dramatically increasing the number of young people who become smokers, Hays said.
“Overall, these data suggest that e-cigarette use among teens warrants significant attention from public health professionals, schools, parents and caregivers – and most importantly, Illinois teens themselves,” Hays said. “CPRD seeks to raise awareness of e-cigarette use among teens and anticipates being part of the dialogue to create a solution to this pressing problem.”
In a statement released last month, U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb called the increase in e-cigarette smoking among the nation’s youth an epidemic and announced that the FDA was stepping up its enforcement efforts against retailers and online vendors that illegally sell tobacco products to minors.
Gottlieb also indicated that the FDA would launch a nationwide campaign warning teens of the dangers of e-cigarette and nicotine use, which recent studies suggested may trigger changes in adolescents’ developing brains and become a gateway to using marijuana and other drugs.