Youth use of combustible cigarettes and vapor products continues to decline in the Show-Me State, with youth cigarette smoking at some of its lowest levels recorded.

According to the Missouri Student Survey, in 2022, only 24.1% of Missouri students in 6th to 12th grade reported ever using e-cigarettes and only 11% reported past-month use. Among Missouri students, ever-use and current e-cigarette use are at levels far lower than reported in 2018 and 2020.

Ever-use of e-cigarettes peaked among Missouri students in 2020, when 29.7% reported ever using a vapor product. Between 2020 and 2022, the number of students reporting having ever used a vapor product declined by 18.9%. Youth past-month e-cigarette use peaked in 2018, when 18.2% reported using an e-cigarette in the month prior to the survey, and between 2018 and 2022 has declined by 28.1%.

Even more welcoming, despite youth use of e-cigarettes, the number of Missouri students reporting using combustible cigarettes continues to decline.

In 2022, only 10.7% of Missouri students reported ever using a combustible cigarette and only 2.5% reported past-month use. Since 2016, ever-use of combustible cigarettes among Missouri youth has declined by 39.2% and past-month rates have declined by 59.7%.

Further, the introduction of e-cigarettes has not led to increases in young adult smoking rates, but rather, correlates with significant declines. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2021, only 7.8% of adults aged 18 to 24 years old in Missouri were currently smoking. This is a 67.6% decline from 1995, and a 76.7% decline from 2007, when e-cigarettes were first introduced to the U.S. market.

While introducing legislation to address youth use of tobacco and vapor products is worthwhile, lawmakers must be wary of policies that would hinder adult access to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. Moreover, they should be appreciative of the recent declines in youth vaping and record lows in youth combustible cigarette use. As the state data indicate, youth use of both products is decreasing, even in the absence of draconian regulatory policies. 

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