There’s great news out of the Grand Canyon State, in 2022, youth tobacco and vapor product use rates reached their lowest levels recorded.

According to data from the Arizona Youth Survey (AYS), in 2022, only 3.7% of 8th graders, 6.2% of 10th graders, and 9.4% of 12th graders reported ever trying a combustible cigarette. Since 2016, ever-use among 8th graders has declined by 73.4%, among 10th graders by 70.5%, and among 12th graders by 69.8%.

Current cigarette use, defined as having smoked a cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey, has declined as well. In 2022, only 1% of 8th graders, 1.6% of 10th graders, and 2.5% of 12th graders reported current combustible cigarette use. Similar to ever-use, since 2016, current cigarette use by 8th graders has declined by 77.8%, among 10th graders by 77.1%, and among 12th graders by 79.8%.

With the introduction of novel tobacco harm reduction products, including e-cigarettes, many policymakers have focused their attention on youth e-cigarette use. According to the AYS, youth e-cigarette use peaked in 2018 and has steadily declined in the years that followed.

In 2022, among 8th graders, 13.6% reported ever-use of e-cigarettes and 6.3% reported current use. Since 2018, ever-use has declined by 50.9% and current use by 53%. Among 10th graders, in 2022, 20.6% reported ever using e-cigarettes and 10.3% reported current use. Ever- and current use of e-cigarettes among 10th graders has declined by 47.6% and 51.6%, respectively, since 2018. Similarly, among 12th graders in 2022, 27% reported ever trying e-cigarettes and 14.8% reported current use. Since 2018, among 12th graders, ever and current vaping rates have declined by 41.1% and 43.3%, respectively.

As policymakers introduce legislation that aims to address youth vaping, it is imperative that they understand that both youth tobacco and vaping rates have significantly declined.

In recent years, local lawmakers in Phoenix and Tempe have examined policies that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vapor products. While addressing youth use of any age-restricted product is laudable, such policies ignore the declining rates of youth vapor product use.

Moreover, national survey data indicate that flavors are not the main reason for youth e-cigarette use. For example, according to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, among middle school and high school students that had ever tried an e-cigarette, 57.8% reported using them because a friend had, 47.6% reported using them because of curiosity, 25.1% cited trying e-cigarettes because they were “feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed,” and only 13.5% cited trying e-cigarettes because of flavors. Further, among current e-cigarette users, 43.4% cited using them because of feelings of anxiousness, stress, and/or depression, 28.3% cited using them because a friend had and only 13.2% had used e-cigarettes because they are “available in flavors, such as menthol, mint, candy, fruit, or chocolate.”

Prior to introducing legislation, lawmakers should be aware of the most up-to-date data indicating youth tobacco and vapor product rates are at their lowest levels recorded. As such, policymakers must refrain from enacting policies that restrict adult access to alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

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.