High school students show dramatic increase in e-cigarette use
The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that current tobacco use by high school students has increased by 23% since 2009. The increase in tobacco use among youth is entirely due to the growing use of electronic vapor products, or e-cigarettes.
More than one-third (37.8%) of all high school students were current users of at least one form of tobacco. While current cigarette use among high school students has fallen dramatically over the last decade (from 24.0% in 2009 to 8.9% in 2019), current use of e-cigarettes has increased 24.0% to 34.7% from 2015 to 2019. This represents a 42% increase in e-cigarette use over four years.
The new data is the result of the 2019 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (YRRS), an annual joint project of the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Public Education Department. The study defines ‘current use’ as the use of tobacco products or other substances during at least one of the 30 days preceding administration of the YRRS.
Of the five forms of tobacco use examined by the YRRS, only e-cigarettes have seen a recent increase in use. From 2009 to 2019, all other forms of tobacco use decreased in use. Current cigarette smoking decreased by 63%. Current cigar smoking decreased by 54% (18.1% to 8.3%), and spit tobacco use decreased by 50% (11.8% to 5.9% in 2019). Hookahs, large water pipes, used to smoke tobacco fell by 59%, from 20.0% in 2011 to 8.2% in 2019.
“It is undeniably great news that fewer New Mexico youth are smoking cigarettes,” said Secretary of Health, Kathy Kunkel. “However, e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction from any tobacco product pose enormous long-term health risk.”
Earlier this year, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 131 into law, which sets up a comprehensive licensing system for the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in New Mexico and makes state law consistent with the new federal minimum age of 21 for sale of tobacco products.
“Licensing is an effective public health strategy to reduce youth access to tobacco products by better understanding where tobacco products are being sold and to ensure retailer compliance with existing state tobacco laws,” said Kunkel. New Mexico now joins 39 other states that require a license to sell tobacco products.
Other trend highlights from the survey include these decreases and increases in behaviors over the last decade:
- Drinking alcohol before age 13 decreased by 30% (from 29.4% to 20.5%).
- Binge drinking fell by 52% (from 25.0% to 12.1%).
- Lifetime use of heroin decreased by 36% (from 4.7% to 3.0%).
- Lifetime use of methamphetamines decreased 33% (from 6.3% to 4.2%).
- Physical fighting on school property decreased by 38% (from 15.0% to 9.3%).
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 36% (from 29.7% to 40.4%).
- Use of electronic media for 3 or more hours daily, not for school work, increased by 105% (from 21.0% to 43.1%).
- Skipping school because of safety concerns increased by 93% (from 7.2% to 13.9%).
More results from the New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey will be released over the coming months. The YRRS was conducted in New Mexico public high schools during the fall of 2019, by the Department of Health, the Public Education Department, and the UNM Prevention Research Center. The YRRS is the New Mexico component of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), designed and sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.