New data shows fewer Utah teens are vaping

Aug 17, 2022, 5:31 PM | Updated: 10:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY  – As students head back to school this month, health advocates and medical experts are reminding parents and teens that electronic cigarettes, or vaping, are harmful.

New state data shows that campaigns focused on vaping may be making a positive difference.

“I think parents, community, schools are getting a message out and prevention programs are working,” said Sharon Jensen, Jordan School District Consultant in Student Support Services.

She works on substance abuse issues in the district. She also sits on the State Board of Education’s Safe and Drug-free Schools Task Force.

New numbers from the statewide SHARP survey showed a dramatic drop in vaping over the last two years among 8th, tenth, and twelfth graders.

“The shine is wearing off of vaping,” Jensen said. “The kids are kind of getting the message: it is the same as smoking, the nicotine is highly addictive, and it just allows you to let big tobacco to take your money.”

In 2019, 12.4% said they had used E-cigarettes. Last year, that number was less than 7.8%.

“All of the trend is downward,” she said. “But, we’re not really satisfied until it’s all the way down.”

“If we’re looking at children, then the best way to stop smoking is to never start smoking,” said Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonary specialist with Intermountain Healthcare.

She was surprised to hear about the decline because she keeps seeing patients with vaping associated lung injury, or EVALI. Her research also showed that vaping does more than damage the lungs.

“We did find that 39% of patients who had EVALI or Vaping associated lung injury had measurable cognitive impairment a year later,” she said. The average age of those patients was 30.

Parents should be aware of unknown objects that look like a pen or a USB drive but are really a vaping device. E-cigarettes also typically smell fruity.

“Sometimes kids will reach for these things as a way of coping with anxiety,” said Blagev.

Health experts agree prevention begins with open communication between parents and their kids.

“I think it’s taken all of us to help young people realize, no, it’s not a safe alternative to smoking. It is smoking in a different form,” Jensen said.

For more information about E-cigarettes, check out seethroughthevape.org.

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New data shows fewer Utah teens are vaping