More Illinois teens are using e-cigarettes today than they were two years ago, according to a new survey that found rates have risen among high school students by 65 percent (sophomores) and 45 percent (seniors).
About 18 percent of sophomores reported smoking e-cigarettes during the past month, compared with 11 percent in 2016, according to this year’s Illinois Youth Survey. The increase was even more pronounced among high school seniors, with 27 percent using e-cigarettes, compared with 18 percent in 2016.
“Our survey rarely registers increases of this magnitude among any of our measures of illicit youth substance use,” said Scott Hays, a senior research scientist at the University of Illinois Center for Prevention Research and Development, in a statement. “This increased use of e-cigarettes among Illinois teens reverses great strides that were made in reducing tobacco use among youths over many years. Now we suddenly see rates of e-cigarette use of nearly 27 percent among this group. This sets youth tobacco control programs backward more than 10 years.”
Conducted biennially by the CPRD, the Illinois Youth Survey polled more than 11,200 teens on a range of behaviors, including tobacco use. The poll, first conducted in 1990, is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery.
Over the past decade, cigarette smoking among high school seniors has dropped significantly, from 21 percent in 2008 to just above 5 percent in 2018. Cigarette smoking has also decreased among sophomores, from 3.4 percent in 2016 to 2.4 percent this year.
While fewer high school students are smoking conventional cigarettes, the upward trend in e-cigarette smoking is introducing the habit to new users, increasing the number of young people who become smokers, says Hays.
“Overall, these data suggest that e-cigarette use among teens warrants significant attention from public health professionals, schools, parents and caregivers – and most importantly, Illinois teens themselves,” Hays said.