Concerns of youth tobacco use rise, frequent use of e-cigarettes increases


From combustible tobacco products to flavored electric cigarettes, tobacco products have expanded their range to attract new audiences.

Nicotine addictions now come in flavors, such as watermelon ice, cotton candy and other combinations of fruit flavors, and that in turn has attracted the attention of more youth in the last couple of decades.

The 2022 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey shows youth commercial tobacco use among Hoosiers is the lowest measured in the past two decades and e-cigarette usage is the lowest since 2012.

Even though fewer youth are using tobacco products, the frequent use of e-cigarettes is higher than previous years, according to reports from the Indiana Department of Health.

The biennial survey is representative of Indiana public school students and collects data from students in grades 6 to 12 regarding all types of tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke, access to tobacco products, knowledge and attitudes, media and advertising, school curriculum and tobacco cessation.

More than 2,900 high school students and more than 2,500 middle school students participated in the 2022 survey.

According to the survey, more than one in 10 high school students, 10.5%, and one in 30 middle school students, 3.3%, in the state reported current tobacco use in the 2022 survey.

Of those who currently used tobacco, about one-fourth of middle school students, 24.6%, and one-third of high school students, 30.6%, reported using more than one tobacco product.

The majority of youth who used tobacco in the past 30 days — 64.7% of middle school youth and 74.5% of high school youth — reported using flavored tobacco products.

“We are pleased to see that overall tobacco use is lower among Indiana youth, which is the same pattern being observed nationally,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state’s health commissioner. “But it is concerning that the majority of students who use tobacco reported using flavored tobacco, including menthol. We know that flavors increase the appeal of tobacco products to youth, promote youth initiation and can contribute to lifelong tobacco use.”

E-cigarette rates also were lower than in previous years with 9.2% of high-schoolers and 2.2% of middle-schoolers reporting current use.

E-cigarettes were still the most commonly used tobacco product among Indiana youth in 2022. The rate of frequent e-cigarette use, 20 or more of the past 30 days, was higher than previous years and was 44% among high school students who currently used e-cigarettes.

In January 2023, Tyler Henkle, the tobacco grant coordinator with the Healthy Jackson County team at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, released a state of tobacco control in Jackson County.

According to the report, with a total population of 46,428 people in the county, 22.6% of adults smoke, which is more than the state average of 17.3%.

From July 2021 to June 2023, Schneck received $98,000 in funding to control tobacco use and provide resources for those wanting to quit in Jackson County.

The survey found Hoosier youths who use tobacco and e-cigarette products are interested in quitting. Among youth who currently used tobacco, 74.6% of middle school students and 55.9% of high school students made at least one quit attempt in the past year.

Similarly, among youth who currently used e-cigarettes, 66.7% of middle school students and 53.9% of high school students made a quit attempt.

While the state sees a decrease in tobacco usage among Hoosiers, the youth still seem to be a target toward a life of addiction.

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