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Vaping Use Increasing Among Utah Teens

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Vaping and use of e-cigarettes has exploded among teens this past year, surging faster than any other substance one national survey has tracked over more than four decades.

Twice as many high school students nationwide used electronic cigarettes with nicotine this year compared to last year, and Utah has seen a similar surge. That’s according to a nationwide survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use over 44- years.

While use of alcohol, cigarettes and opioids have declined, the spike in use of e-cigarettes is the largest single-year jump in the survey’s four-decade history.

“I used to smoke a lot of cigarettes,” said Orem resident Jeffery Andrews, who stopped smoking cigarettes and switched to vaping.

He said he feels a lot better about vaping.

“The flavor of it, and gets you that nicotine buzz,” said Jeffrey Andrews.  “A little safer than cigarettes I suppose.”

Andrews was old enough to buy vape products. The owner of the store where he shops said he makes sure with every customer. He cards every customer to make sure they’re 19.

“My point of sale system will not even make a sale if an ID is not scanned,” said Juan Bravo, the store owner and president of the Utah Vapor Business Association.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bravo said he keeps a record of every transaction to verify it is legal.

“I see the value in this product, but it is an adult product for adult smokers,” he said.

Bravo represents 15 other store owners as president of the Utah Vapor Business Association. He said they started to association in 2017 to make sure legitimate vape businesses have a voice in future legislation.

“(We’re) heavily fighting to implement sensible legislation to keep these products out of the hands of kids,” he said.

The federally funded survey from University of Michigan researchers found one in five high school seniors reported vaping nicotine in the previous month.

“I was shocked to hear that the numbers were as high as they were,” said Ryan Bartlett, media coordinator of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program with the Utah Department of Health.

Bartlett said he has seen a similar trend in Utah.

In Utah last year, more than 10 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders reported using e-cigarettes in the last month, while more than 23 percent said they had tried vaping at least once.

With a legal limit of age 19 to buy vaping products, officials have asked how kids are getting them?

Bartlett said teens are getting e-cigarettes, or stealing them, from older friends or parents.

“Or, they’ll have somebody go into these shops and buy them for them,” he said.

One of the problems for parents or other adults is trying to detect some e-cigarettes.

“The fact (is) that they are disguised, and so easy to conceal,” said Bartlett.

Some e-cigarettes resemble computer flash drives and cannot be easily detected. Bravo said he longer sells those kinds of products in his store.

“It was when those devices started being sold in gas stations, convenient stores, and places like that that you saw a spike in youth use,” he said.

Bartlett said e-cigarette use has risen to become the biggest issue in the tobacco prevention program.
“They are becoming increasingly more so,” Bartlett said. “That’s one of the biggest things that we’re addressing right now.”

Overall, regular cigarette smoking in Utah has declined about 10 percent over the last 20 years.

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