Despite continued local media purporting of a youth vaping epidemic in the Gopher State, youth vaping and use of combustible cigarette products has significantly declined. This is welcoming news and should be of use to lawmakers ahead of the 93rd Legislature, when, undoubtedly, the topic of adult access to flavored tobacco and vape products will be debated.

According to the Minnesota Student Survey, conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education, in 2022, only 6% of 8th graders, 7% of 9th graders, and 14% of 11th graders reported past-month use of e-cigarettes. These are substantial declines from 2019 when youth vaping peaked in the Gopher State. Among 8th graders, between 2019 and 2022, past-month vaping decreased by 45.5%, among 9th graders by 56.3%, and among 11th graders by 46.2%. Further, during the same period, daily e-cigarette use declined by 50% and 42.3% among 9th and 11th graders, respectively. Among 8th graders, there was no change with 1% reporting daily use in both 2019 and 2022.

Combustible cigarette use is also at record lows, contrary to opponents’ fears that e-cigarette use would lead to an increase in traditional tobacco use. In 2022, 2% of 8th graders, 2% of 9th graders, and 4% of 11th graders reported past-month combustible cigarette use. Between 2016 and 2022, past-month smoking rates have declined by 33.3% among 8th graders, by 60% among 9th graders, and by 50% among 12th graders.

While most students who reported past-month e-cigarette use reported vaping a flavored product, among all students who had smoked a combustible cigarette in the past month, only 32.3% reported using a flavored cigarette product, such as menthol.

The introduction and use of e-cigarettes among youth have not led to increases in combustible cigarette use among young adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, in 2022, only 6.9% of Minnesotans aged 18 to 24 years old reported current combustible cigarette use. This was an 11.5% decline from 2020’s 7.8% and a 25% decline from 2019 when youth vaping seems to have peaked in the state.

It is imperative that policymakers take note of the most updated figures on youth tobacco and vapor product use. While addressing youth use of any age-restricted product is laudable, an exorbitant amount of research and data indicate that e-cigarettes are both safer than and a substitute for traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Given the considerable decrease in youth vaping and the lack of subsequent cigarette use, Minnesota lawmakers must refrain from policies that would hinder adults’ access to safe alternatives to smoking. 

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.