Current use of cigarettes by Florida youth is one of the lowest in the nation at 2.2%, so why are we working so hard to reduce youth smoking even further? Kids who never would have started smoking are turning to electronic vaping devices, making it the number one used nicotine device. The low smoking rate in Florida doesn’t give the entire story of nicotine addiction by youth in our state.
Youth ages 11-17 who have ever tried cigarettes has decreased 47.2% between 2012 and 2018; 10.2% decrease in the past year alone. It would seem it is all good news, but cigars and smokeless tobacco saw slight increases this year after steady decreases since 2012. Between 2012 and 2017, youth who had ever tried cigars dropped from 16.2% to 7.9%, a 50.6% decrease. This year that number is 8.0%. Smokeless tobacco decreased from 7.0% in 2012 to 4.1% in 2017, a 37.1% decrease. The 2018 number stands at 4.4%. The number of youth who have ever tried cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco has decreased 39.9%, from 27.6% in 2012 to 16.6% in 2018. Hookah use, which had been increasing between 2012-2016, has been decreasing the past two years and saw a 26.2% decrease in the past year alone. When looking at data for just high school students, the numbers are much higher with 17.2% ever tried cigarettes, and 37.9% ever tried electronic vaping, a 362.2% increase between 2012-2018, and a 18.1% in the past year alone. Middle school students who have ever tried vaping is up 297.3% between 2012-2018, and 18.5% in the past year.
We admit that the low number of youth currently using cigarettes is impressive, and has decreased 63.9% since 2012 from a high of 6.1%. Cigar use had a high of 6.5% in 2012 and had decreased every year until 2017. In the past year it increased from 2.7% to 3.0% for 2018. Current use of smokeless tobacco has seen its ups and downs since a high of 3.0% in 2012 and again in 2014; since then the trend has been down and has seen an overall decrease of 43.3%. After starting out at 3.0% in 2012, hookah use increased to a high of 7.1% in 2014 and has fallen every year since. It has seen a 26.8% decreased between 2012-2018 and a 21.1% decrease in the past year alone. Current use of cigarettes, cigars or smokeless tobacco has seen a steady decrease between 2012-2018 with a high of 11.0% in 2012 to a low of 5.1% in 2017. The 2018 number is 5.2%.
Seeing decreases in tobacco use is something to celebrate; however, the current trend in electronic vaping is disheartening and scary. While the ever tried use of cigarettes was 11.4% in 2018, ever tried electronic vaping increased to 26.3% after two years of declines, and increased 17.9% in the past year alone. Overall, ever tried electronic vaping saw an increase of 361.4% between 2012-2018. In 2012, current use of electronic vaping was at 2.3%, but now stands at 15.7%, with a 60.2% increase between 2017-2018 alone. Even with a decrease between 2016-2017, current use of electronic vaping increased 582.6% between 2012-2018. Data for high school student use of electronic vaping is much higher with 24.8% use in 2018. Between 2012 and 2018, current use of electronic vaping increased 651.5% among high school students with a 58.0% increase between 2017-2018. Current use of vaping for middle school students increased 387.5% between 2012-2018 and 44.4% in the past year alone.
Not all youth who try tobacco or nicotine products go on to become current or daily users, but in the area of electronic vaping, we can certainly see why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says vaping is at an epidemic level. One way to decrease tobacco and nicotine use is to educate our youth regarding the dangers of addiction. The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course allows all educators with a current FLDOE certificate to take the course at no cost to them or their district. At course completion, participants will teach six (6) tobacco prevention lessons to their students before being awarded either 30- or 60-points to renew their certificate. Both courses now have an entire chapter dedicated to vaping and electronic cigarettes. Palm Beach teachers can take a 10-point course just on vaping, provided they haven’t already taken one of the other courses.
The vaping industry has told our kids that vaping is “safer” and “less harmful” than cigarettes, but they haven’t been truthful about the dangers of their products. By educating our students, we can make a difference in their lifelong health.