Youth e-cigarette and tobacco use continues to decline in the Sunshine State. According to data from the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2021, only 12.6% of Florida high schoolers reported ever-use of combustible cigarettes and only 32.2% had tried e-cigarettes. Among middle school students, 7.2% had tried combustible cigarettes and 16.2% had tried e-cigarettes.
Current use, defined as having used a tobacco and/or vapor product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey has declined, as well. Among high schoolers, only 1.7% reported current cigarette use and only 18.3% reported currently vaping. Among middle schoolers, only 1% reported current cigarette use and 8% reported currently using e-cigarettes.
The declines in combustible cigarette use are remarkable. Since 2015, among high schoolers, ever-use has declined by 45%, from 22.9% in 2015, and current use has declined by 75.4%, from 6.9%. Among middle schoolers, current cigarette use has decreased by 30% since 2017. Not only are the results welcoming, but they are evidence that youth vapor product use has not led to an increase in youth combustible cigarette use.
Moreover, youth vaping has significantly declined. In 2019, 38.7% of Florida high school students reported ever-use of e-cigarettes and 28.5% reported current use of e-cigarettes, which, to this date, are the highest recorded levels. Between 2019 and 2021, ever-use of vapor products among Florida high school students declined by 16.8% and current use declined by 28.5%.
Similarly, 2019 saw the highest rates of e-cigarette use among middle schoolers and these rates continue to decline. Between 2019 and 2021, ever-use decreased by 14.1% and current e-cigarette use decreased by 12.1%.
The declines in Florida are remarkable and further evidence that prohibitionist policies and excessive regulations and taxation are not necessary to stem youth e-cigarette use.
In the 2020 legislative session, Senate Bill 810 was introduced and would have banned the “selling, delivering, bartering, furnishing, or giving flavored liquid nicotine products to any other person, etc.” Fortunately for adults who use flavored e-cigarettes to quit smoking, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the legislation, noting that flavored e-cigarettes are “a reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes,” and that the “legislation would almost assuredly lead more people to resume smoking cigarettes, and it would drive others to the hazardous black market.”
As policymakers head into legislative sessions, it is imperative that they are up-to-date on the data on state youth tobacco and vape use, as well as wary of top-down prohibitionist policies that do not consider this growing data indicating youth vaping seems to have peaked in 2019, and youth combustible cigarette use is at the lowest rates ever recorded.
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.