Youth tobacco and vapor product use continues to decline in the Centennial State, according to results from the 2021 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS).

In 2021, only 30.4% of high school students reported ever using an e-cigarette and only 16.1% reported current use, defined as having vaped on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey. Since 2019, ever-use of e-cigarettes has declined by 33.8% and current use has declined by 37.8%.

There is better news about combustible use. In 2021, only 3.3% of Colorado high schoolers reported currently using cigarettes. This is a 41.1% decline from 2019 when 5.7% were currently smoking cigarettes.

Parents and policymakers should be aware that these are some of the lowest rates of combustible cigarette and vapor product use among Colorado youth. Indeed, current smoking rates have declined by 69.2% since 2013, when one in five (10.7%) of Colorado high schoolers were currently smoking.

Moreover, vapor product use among high schoolers is at its lowest ever rate recorded. For example, in 2015, when the HKCS first inquired about youth vapor product use, 46.2% of high schoolers had ever tried an e-cigarette and 26.1% were currently vaping. Between 2015 and 2021, ever use and current use declined by 34.2% and 38.3%, respectively. 

The HKCS also examines why youth are using e-cigarettes, and overwhelmingly, youth are not citing “flavors” as a reason for use. For example, in 2021, among current high school e-cigarette users, 46.7% cited using them because a friend or family member had used them, compared to only 22.6% who had cited flavors.

The survey results are similar to data found in national surveys. For example, according to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, among middle school and high school students that were ever users of e-cigarettes, 57.8% cited using them because a friend and/or family member has used them, 47.6% cited curiosity, and only 13.5% cited flavors.

The data could not come at a most opportune moment. Earlier this year, Coloradan lawmakers attempted to push through a bill that would have banned both flavored vapes, as well as other tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Arguably one of the most heavily lobbied-for legislation in recent legislative history, the bill would advance through the Colorado House of Representatives, but ultimately—and to the benefit of the adults who rely on flavored vapor products to remain smoke-free—the legislation failed to pass a Senate Committee.

As lawmakers seek to draft legislation for 2023 sessions, it is imperative that they are aware of the available survey data prior to enacting prohibitions. As indicated, youth vaping has declined significantly, even without a flavor ban, and lawmakers should take note.

This is part of a blog series of state analyses examining recent youth tobacco and vapor surveys.

Lindsey Stroud is a Visiting Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, Director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center, and a board member with the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.