Survey shows increase in high school students vaping

A new survey on teen drug use by the National Institute of Health found vaping among high school seniors has nearly doubled in the last year, which has caused concern among public health officials in Cincinnati. (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A new survey on teen drug use by the National Institute of Health found vaping among high school seniors has nearly doubled in the last year, which has caused concern among public health officials in Cincinnati.

The results of the National Institute on Drug Abuse's "Monitoring the Future" survey were released Monday. It found that opioid use among teenagers was down, but the survey also found the number of high school seniors who vaped nicotine was up 11 percent from 2017 to 20.9 percent.

"We're seeing a very significant and fast increase in our use of vaping by teenagers, and the numbers are growing very, very rapidly," said Dr. Nora Volkow of the NIDA.

Dr. O'dell Owens of Interact for Health said the results of the survey did not surprise him because vaping among teens is up locally as well.

"Kids really have a false sense of security with this," Dr. Owens said. "When you heat metal up, you're going to have release of chemicals that will get into your lungs and damage your lungs over a period of time. It is not safe."

Dr. Owens said nicotine impacts the reward center of the brain and the heart. He says it primes that reward center and puts people at risk for addictions later in life. He believes getting teens involved in after-school activities has a positive impact on the same area of the brain.

The survey results were released days after Cincinnati City Council approved the Tobacco 21 ordinance by a 5-3 vote. It makes it illegal to sell tobacco and vaping products to anyone younger than 21 in city limits. Interact for Health is funding part of the ordinance.

"One of the main reasons why we wanted to sponsor Tobacco 21 is that 90 percent of the people that smoke now started before they were 21 years old. They actually started by the time they were 18 years old," said council member Tamaya Dennard, who sponsored Tobacco 21.

Dennard pointed to higher infant mortality rates in the Cincinnati area among lower-income and minority groups. She said tobacco use can contribute to infant mortality.

"In Tobacco 21, we have proposed an allotment of money to educate young people," Dennard said. "A lot of times because of the flavors and it has a sweet aroma to it, people don't think it has deadly health effects," she said.

Tobacco 21 will take effect in December 2019. Business owners who sell tobacco and vaping products to people under age 21 would be fined.

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