There is great news from the Buckeye State as youth tobacco and vapor product use has declined in recent years. Further, Ohio also saw a decline in smoking rates among adults aged 18 to 24 years old.
According to the Ohio Healthy Youth Environments Survey (OHYES), in 2020-21, among all students, only 3.7% reported past-month combustible cigarette use, defined as having smoked “part or all of a cigarette” in the 30 days prior to the survey. This is a 5.1% decline from 2019-20, when 3.9% of students reported past-month cigarette use, and an extraordinary 43.9% decline from 2016-17 when 6.6% were past-month cigarette users. Between 2019-20 and 2020-21, daily cigarette use decreased by 13.8%, from 18.8% to 16.2%, and by 35.5% since 2016-17.
As youth combustible cigarette use reaches historic lows, many lawmakers have turned their attention toward youth e-cigarette use. In Ohio, and nationally, youth vapor product use continues to decline. According to data from OHYES, youth vaping peaked in 2018-2019, when 15.7% of Ohio students reported having used an e-cigarette on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior of the survey. Of those 15.7% that reported past-month e-cigarette use, 6% had used the products on “1 or 2 days,” and only 2.8% were daily vapers.
In 2020-21, 12.5% of Ohio students reported past-month e-cigarette use, 4.3% of whom reported using the products for one or two days. Past-month e-cigarette use declined by 20.4% between 2018-19 and 2021-21, but unfortunately, daily vape use increased by 17.9% from 2.3% in 2018-19. Interestingly, this does correlate with a 17.3% decline in daily cigarette use during the same period.
Unlike some state surveys, OHYES includes data on reasons youth had used e-cigarettes. It is of the utmost importance that policymakers understand the plethora of data indicating flavors are not a primary reason for youth e-cigarette use.
According to OHYES, in 2020-21, 46.9% of Ohio students that had ever used a vapor product reported using them because a friend had used them, 27.2% reported using them because they were bored, 22.2% reported using them because of flavors, and 18.3% reported using them because a family member had used them. This is similar to other state and national surveys which consistently find youth use e-cigarettes because of social sources and/or feelings of anxiety, depression, etc.
Regarding adults, smoking rates are continuing to decline. In 2021, 18% of all adults were currently smoking, a 6.7% decline from 2020’s 19.3%. Among Ohioans aged 18 to 24 years old, in 2021, only 9.9% were currently smoking, this is a 4.8% decline from 2020 when 10.4% of young adults were currently smoking.
Nationally, young adult smoking rates declined on average by 19.7% between 2020 and 2021. Since October 2019, Ohio has imposed a $0.10/ml state excise tax on vapor products. In an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that did not impose excise taxes on vapor products saw young adult smoking rates decrease on average by 22.9% during the same period, while states with vapor taxes saw, on average, a decline of 17.6%.
As policymakers move forward with policies aimed at addressing the debunked youth vaping crisis, it is necessary that they rely on up-to-date data on youth tobacco and vapor product use, which shows significant declines. Moreover, they should refrain from policies that may hinder adult access to tobacco harm reduction products, as it could inadvertently lead to increases in combustible cigarette use.
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.