March 7, 2019

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391


Progress erased: Youth tobacco use increased during 2017-2018 in the U.S.

A March 11 presentation by the State Medical Officer highlights the current scientific evidence on e-cigarette use

The introduction of e-cigarettes into the U.S. market has altered the trajectory of nicotine addiction and tobacco use behavior among youth.

But what does that mean for the health of Montanans? Dr. Greg Holzman, State Medical Officer for the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), will share the most current scientific information available on e-cigarettes and the known associated health risks at a March 11 public health briefing titled, “E-cigarettes: what we know in 2019.”

The presentation will occur at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 11 in Room 335 of the State Capitol building in Helena.

A new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 4.9 million middle and high school students nationwide were current users (used in the past 30 days) of some type of tobacco product in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017. This increase—driven by a surge in e-cigarette use—has erased past progress in reducing youth tobacco use.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a tobacco product as any product that is “made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption.” E-cigarettes are considered a tobacco product by the FDA as they tend to contain nicotine derived from tobacco.

More than 1 in 4 (27.1%) high school students used a tobacco product in 2018. For the fifth year in a row, e-cigarettes (20.8%) were the most commonly used tobacco product among high schoolers, followed by cigarettes (8.1%), cigars (7.6%), smokeless tobacco (5.9%), hookah (4.1%), and pipe tobacco (1.1%).

“Tobacco use among Montana high school students is consistently higher than the national average,” explains DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan. In Montana, nearly one third (32.7%) of high school students used a tobacco product in 2017, according to the Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Similar to national data, e-cigarettes (22.5%) were the most commonly used tobacco product, followed by cigars (12.9%), cigarettes (12.1%) and smokeless tobacco (9.8%).

Since e-cigarettes came onto the U.S. market in the mid-2000s, there has been a lot of confusion and unknowns around the product’s health risks.

Questions have surfaced such as: What do we know about the safety of e-cigarettes? What is in an e-cigarette? What are the long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes? What do we know about using e-cigarettes for quitting combustible tobacco?

In 2019, health professionals understand some of the health risks associated with e-cigarette use. For example, e-cigarettes have been proven unsafe for children and young adults because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. A CDC study found that 99% of e-cigarettes sold in U.S. convenience stores contain nicotine.

Nicotine is not only highly addictive, but it also harms brain development, which continues until the age of 25. Further, research shows that youth who use e-cigarettes are 4 times more likely to become cigarette smokers in the future. Other long-term health risks are still unknown.