Teen e-cigarette use is on the rise in WI

State trends diverge from nationwide decline

Though youth tobacco usage nationwide “dropped dramatically” last year, the use of e-cigarettes among Wisconsin teenagers is on the rise.

According to data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle and high school students who currently use tobacco dropped from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016. Researchers attribute the decline, in large part, to a decrease in e-cigarette use – a result of widespread prevention efforts by national, state, and local advocates.

Wisconsin, however, saw an increase of 13.3 percent in youth e-cigarette usage in the same period. “Tobacco is Wisconsin’s leading cause of preventable death and costs the state more than $4.5 billion annually in health care and lost productivity costs,” according to the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

The CDC’s latest report also shows a nationwide decline in the number of teens using multiple tobacco products. In 2016, 1.8 million middle and high school students reported they were currently using two or more tobacco products – almost half of all teens who used any tobacco products at all.

Despite this decline, e-cigarettes remain the most popular tobacco product among middle and high school students, and researchers caution that youth tobacco usage remains a critical public health concern.

“Tobacco use in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for youth,” Corinne Graffunder, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in the report’s release. “Tobacco products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain.”

To learn more about e-cigarettes and prevention efforts in Wisconsin, visit UW’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention or the E-Cigarette Toolkit from towbis.org.

Decreasing youth access to tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is a strategy within Priority 1 of the WI Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan 2015-2020 and is supported by the WI Cancer Council’s Policy Agenda. Visit the CCC Plan for action steps that can support this work. 

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