E-cigarette use among Hawaii teens increases dramatically - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

E-cigarette use among Hawaii teens increases dramatically

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A troubling headline from a Department of Health study: E-cigarette use by Hawaii teenagers has more than tripled in 2 years.

According to Tonya Lowery St. John, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Epidemiologist, "E-cigarette use has tripled among our high school students and it's quadrupled among middle school students."

From 2011 to 2013, e-cig use jumped from 1.8 to 7.9 percent for middle school students, compared to 3 percent nationally.

The rate tripled for high school students from 5 to 17 percent, versus the national average of 12 percent.

Last year, the Department of Education made e-cigs contraband.

Jessica Yamauchi from the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii pointed out one that was recently confiscated from a student. Yamauchi said, "The most concerning one we have here really doesn't even look like an e-cigarette. It looks like a pen. As a teacher, parent, you know these are the things we need to be aware of because kids can sneak these into the classroom really easily."

The candy-like flavors have come under fire for marketing appealing, addicting products to children.

Lila Johnson, Tobacco Prevention and Education Program Manager said, "Middle school and high school students in the youth tobacco survey reported they are receiving coupons and ads in the mail, over the internet."

The Health Department says this study shows we need to do a better job educating students about potential health hazards.

Lowery St. John explained the problem, saying "When we go out to talk to kids about e-cigarettes, 9 out of 10 have no idea it's bad for them. They have bought that it's a natural good thing."

Lola Irvin, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Manager added, "You can be sure these are not safe products. They have nicotine which is highly addictive and can be passed through the skin and can cause nausea and dizziness."

On the flip side, education about traditional tobacco dangers have contributed to a drop in cigarette smoking.

Past studies showed people were switching to e-cigs to stop smoking.

But this report found new users were starting with e-cigs.

The UH Cancer Center will reveal results of their own study later this month.

To view the entire DOH Tobacco Use Survey, click HERE

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