Survey shows rise in youth tobacco use

Published 3:01 pm Saturday, February 17, 2018

For the first time in 17 years, youth tobacco use in Minnesota has increased, according to the survey of more than 4,000 middle-school and high-school students.

Findings show more than 26 percent of high school students use tobacco products, up 7 percent since 2014.

It’s the first time since the survey began in 2000 that high-school tobacco use increased.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of 50 organizations working to reduce youth tobacco use, is urging action to counter trends revealed in the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, released last week by the Minnesota Department of Health.

“For the first time in nearly two decades, more high-school students are using commercial tobacco – a frightening trend driven by a sharp rise in e-cigarette use and by Big Tobacco’s marketing to our kids,” said Molly Moilanen, director of public affairs for ClearWay Minnesota and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation.

“The Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey shows we need to step up our statewide tobacco prevention measures,” Moilanen added. “The decrease in cigarette smoking is good news, but the overall rise in youth tobacco use should alarm parents, lawmakers and all Minnesotans. Raising the legal age for tobacco products to 21 and restricting the sale of kid-friendly flavored tobacco products are common-sense steps Minnesota should take to protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction.”

Tobacco products flavored like candy, menthol and fruit are attractive to kids and can lead to a lifetime of tobacco addiction and disease.

Most kids start using tobacco with flavored tobacco products, which may mask the harshness of tobacco, but are just as addictive and dangerous as other tobacco products.

The Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey points to the success of sustained efforts to lower youth cigarette smoking rates.

Since 2000, Minnesota has seen a 70 percent decrease in cigarette use by high school students, due to high prices and decades of tobacco prevention efforts.

Key findings from the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey include:

•Minnesota has seen a nearly 50 percent increase in high school students using e-cigarettes (from 13 percent in 2014 to 19 percent in 2017).

•The vast majority of students – 88 percent – reported they have seen ads promoting e-cigarettes. Nearly twice as many students who report seeing e-cigarette ads on social media “all the time” use e-cigarettes (37 percent) as those who see ads less often (19 percent).

•Youth have easy access to e-cigarettes, with 32 percent of underage high-school e-cigarette users and 20 percent of middle-school users reporting that they got or bought e-cigarettes from a retail outlet.

•Sixty-seven percent of high-school tobacco users and nearly 60 percent of middle-school tobacco users reported using flavored products.

•The number of high school students who reported smoking cigars or cigarillos is up nearly 30 percent (from 8 percent in 2014 to 11 percent in 2017).

•Cigarette use among youth continues to decline with 9.6 percent of high-school students reported smoking cigarettes in the last 30 days, down from 10.5 percent in 2014.