CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) last month released a report, West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination, in response to the rapid rise in e-cigarette product use among youth. This report was also prepared in the context of DHHR’s ongoing investigation of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury.
E-cigarettes were first introduced more than a decade ago when tobacco use among youth was continuing to decline in West Virginia and across the U.S. Vaping among youth was present, but markedly lower than use of combustible cigarettes. With the development of small, readily disguisable, and flavored products introduced and marketed by the industry in recent years, youth nicotine use has skyrocketed.
Adult and youth tobacco use in West Virginia has historically exceeded national levels. Youth use of and exposure to nicotine-based products in West Virginia has escalated in the past two years. More than one in three, or 35.7%, of West Virginia high school students report current use of e-cigarettes. This is a 150% increase from 2017 to 2019 alone. In 2019, more than 60% of high school students, or 62.4%, report having tried e-cigarettes. This is up from 44.4% in 2017. Since 2017, West Virginia high school students reported frequent use of vaping products (20+ days a month), an increase by almost 440% from 3.1% to 16.7%.
“This report, compiled in part with data from the West Virginia Department of Education, is critical to addressing the youth vaping epidemic in West Virginia. This trend is alarming given the irreparable, adverse impact of nicotine use during adolescence, a time of rapid and continuing brain and social development,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Nicotine use can make West Virginia’s youth susceptible to lifelong addiction and potentially promote addiction to other substances.”
Visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/bph/Documents/Youth%20Vaping%20Summary%201-23-20.pdf to view the West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination report.