PROVIDENCE – New data from Rhode Island KIDS COUNT released Friday shows that a higher rate of middle-school and high-school students are using e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes and the nonprofit is calling on the state to continue to help curtail usage among youth.
According to the data compiled in a youth risk behavior survey by the R.I. Department of Health, the percentage of high-school students using e-cigarettes increased from 19.3% in 2015 to 30.1% in 2019. Additionally, it was more common for female high-school students in 2019 to use e-cigarettes (31%) than male high-school students (28%).
It is a stark contrast to high school students using regular cigarettes, where the percentages have improved in that realm. Data shows regular cigarette usage by high-school students dropped over the course of a decade, from 13.3% in 2019 to 4.2% in 2019.
E-cigarette use by middle-school students had declined in the last five years from 7.6% in 2015 to 6.5% last year. Still, the percentages of middle-school students using e-cigarettes are higher than those smoking traditional cigarettes, where only 1.6% of such students reported smoking regular cigarettes last year – dropping from 5% in 2009.
“The data around e-cigarette use among young people is very troubling, but critical for us to understand,” said Eileen Howard, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy for CVS Health Corp., “so we can work with dedicated organizations like Rhode Island KIDS COUNT to advocate for the policies needed to make an impact on decreasing youth tobacco and e-cigarette use,”
KIDS COUNT also said that the state has a “strong history” of supporting policies to prevent youth tobacco use. In September 2019, RIDOH, at the request of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, to implement a 120-day ban on flavored e-cigarette sales,
However, KIDS COUNT feels the state needs to do more to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of the state’s youth.
“Now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional risk for young people who are vaping and using cigarettes we need to increase our efforts to reduce the number of young people using e-cigarettes and tobacco products,” said KIDS COUNT Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant in a statement.