A new survey of Alaska high school students has found e-cigarette use higher than the national average. The results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which included questions about e-cigarettes for the first time in 2015, were published Monday by the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.
Past studies have examined e-cigarette use among Alaskan adults, but the youth risk survey was the first to focus on students in grades 9-12.
According to the survey, 18 percent of high school students reported using an e-cigarette or other nicotine vaporizer in the previous 30 days. That figure represented more than half of all “tobacco product” use among high school students, the survey found. Thirty-one percent of Alaska high school students had used some type of tobacco product — traditional cigarette, cigar, chewing tobacco — in the previous 30 days (the benchmark for current use).
Nationally, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control, 14 percent of high school students are using e-cigarettes.
In Alaska, e-cigarette use was higher among high school boys (20 percent) than girls (15 percent), and higher among whites (18 percent) and hispanics (34 percent) than Natives (14 percent).
While the health effects of e-cigarette use have not been studied in depth, public health officials worry that e-cigarettes might promote nicotine addiction and serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use.
The survey included the responses of 1,418 students at 41 schools across the state. The schools were not identified.
— Juneau Empire