There is welcome news out of the Badger State as youth use of tobacco and vapor products declined in 2021 and young adult smoking is at the lowest levels recorded.

According to the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2021, only 16.8% of high school students reported ever trying a combustible cigarette, and only 4.5% were currently smoking, defined as having used a tobacco and/or vapor product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey. Ever-use of combustible cigarettes decreased by 12% since 2019, and current use decreased by 21.1%. Daily use decreased by 16.7% from 0.6% of high schoolers using cigarettes every day in 2019 to 0.5% in 2021.

High school vapor product use has declined as well. In 2021, a little under one-third (32.4%) of Wisconsin high school students reported ever-trying an e-cigarette. This is a 28.8% decline from 2019 when nearly half (45.5%) of high schoolers had tried an e-cigarette. Current e-cigarette use has declined by 28.6%, from 20.6% in 2019 to 14.7% in 2021. Daily use has also declined, with only 5.1% of high school students reporting using a vapor product every day in 2021, an 8.9% decline from 2019’s 5.6%.

Further, adult smoking rates have continued to decline and young adult smoking rates are at their lowest levels recorded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey system annually surveys adults on tobacco use. In Wisconsin, in 2021, only 13.3% of adults were currently smoking in 2021, a 14.2% decline from 2020’s 15.5%. Even better, young adult smoking is at record lows with only 5.6% of Wisconsinites aged 18 to 24 years old that were currently smoking in 2021, a 24.3% decrease from 2020’s 7.4%. Moreover, youth vaping has not led to combustible cigarette use, as since 2017, young adult smoking rates have decreased by 55.6% with average annual declines of 18.1%.

In the face of growing misinformation, policymakers must be aware that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than combustible cigarettes and their introduction correlates with significant declines in smoking rates in both Wisconsin and the U.S. as well.

Further, data indicate that flavored e-cigarette bans lead to increases in young adult smoking. Among all states minus Florida, young adult smoking rates decreased on average by 19.7% between 2020 and 2021. In fact, only nine states saw increases in young adult smoking rates, three of which have current bans on flavored e-cigarette products.

As lawmakers prepare for 2023 legislative sessions, it is imperative that they have up-to-date data on both youth and young adult tobacco and vapor product use. Youth tobacco and vaping use continue to decline and there has been no uptick in young adult smoking in Wisconsin.

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.