American Lung Association Responds to Hawai‘i’s Alarming Vaping Rates

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 48.3 percent of Hawai‘i high school students and 30.6 percent of middle school students have ever tried e-cigarettes. The report was released as part of its Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors six categories of health-related behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth. The release of the 2020 YRBSS data punctuates the need for action in light of continuing reports of severe lung illnesses and deaths linked to vaping. The need is further compounded by the current COVID-19 crisis, making those with compromised lungs more vulnerable for the worst effects of this lung epidemic. The report also shows that 30.6 percent of high schoolers and 17.7 percent of middle schoolers are currently e-cigarette users.

“The elevated vaping numbers in Hawai’i are disheartening, especially knowing that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have higher vaping rates than the rest of the youth in Hawai‘i. Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including mint and menthol as well as products like flavored e-cigarettes, cigars and cigarettes is a critical step that must be taken immediately to curb the youth e-cigarette epidemic” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Hawai‘i. “In light of the popularity of mint and menthol e-cigarettes among youth, the American Lung Association calls on the Hawai‘i legislature to protect our young people by including mint and menthol in a comprehensive prohibition of flavored all tobacco products,” Haro said. The CDC data shows that more than half of all Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander high school students have ever tried e-cigarettes while 45 percent of middle school Pacific Islanders have said the same.

The need for Hawai‘i to take action to protect youth from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is more urgent than ever, with the youth vaping epidemic continuing its alarming rise to nearly one in three high school students reporting they are current e-cigarette users, compared to one in four according to the CDC data released in 2018. This is a staggering increase in high school e-cigarette use in just the past two years. For Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, 39.5 percent of high school students report being current e-cigarette users, nearly 9 percentage points higher than the average for the state.

In January of this year, the American Lung Association “State of Tobacco Control” report called for proven tobacco control policies in light of the fact that the country’s youth vaping epidemic worsened in 2019.  The report noted that despite Hawai‘i receiving over $154 million from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state funding for tobacco control was just over $6.3 million, just 57.5% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report recommended that the funds be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.

Earlier this month, the Lung Association announced the launch of their highly anticipated revised N-O-T® Not On Tobacco youth tobacco cessation and INDEPTH® alternative to suspension programs and facilitator training courses. N-O-T is an evidence-based program with an impressive success rate, with approximately 90 percent of teens who participate in the program cutting back or quitting tobacco all together. The updated 2020 N-O-T revision goes beyond cigarette smoking to include all tobacco products, with an increased focus on nicotine dependence, e-cigarettes and multiple tobacco product use.

Haro added “our state needs to invest in helping youth quit tobacco, including e-cigarettes – as well as enact flavored tobacco restrictions. The Lung Association’s N-O-T program evaluation shows that along with quitting smoking or vaping, youth also have been shown to have better grades, higher motivation, fewer absences, better relationships with teachers and fewer school tobacco use policy violations.”

Both the N-O-T and INDEPTH programs support comprehensive tobacco control policies in school or community settings and support the American Lung Association’s measures to eliminate tobacco use by youth and to reduce the youth e-cigarette prevalence rate to 15% by 2025.

For more information, contact:

Bo Smith
[email protected]

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