The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently published the results of the 2021 South Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey for high school students in the Palmetto State. There is welcome news for those who may be concerned about a supposed youth vaping epidemic as e-cigarette use seems to have peaked in 2019 and declined in the years since. Moreover, youth use of traditional tobacco products, including cigars, cigarettes, and smokeless products, is at record lows.

Among South Carolina high school students, in 2021, 36% reported having ever tried an e-cigarette, and 16.5% reported current e-cigarette use, “defined as having used the product on one or more days in the past 30 days prior to the survey.” Between 2019 and 2021, ever-use of e-cigarettes declined by 8.9% while current use declined by 25.3%.

Regarding traditional tobacco products, in 2021, 17.4% of South Carolina high schoolers reported ever using cigars, 18.8% had ever used a combustible cigarette, and 9.7% reported ever trying smokeless tobacco products. Between 2011 and 2021, ever-use of cigars declined by 47%, ever-cigarette use by 62.4%, and smokeless tobacco use by 58.4%.

Current use has also decreased. In 2021, 5.2% of high school students reported using cigars, 3.1% had used combustible cigarettes, and 4.3% reported using a smokeless tobacco product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior. Between 2011 and 2021, current use of cigars among South Carolina high schoolers decreased by 65.3%, current use of cigarettes by 87%, and current use of smokeless tobacco products by 64%.

The declines are welcome as opponents to cigarette alternatives continue to decry a youth vaping epidemic. Similar to the Palmetto State, nationally, youth vaping peaked in 2019 and halved between 2019 and 2021. In 2022, less than one in ten (9.4%) of U.S. middle and high school students reported past-month e-cigarette use. Even better, youth combustible cigarette use is at record lows with only 1.6% reporting current use in 2022.

It is more than apparent that youth use of both traditional tobacco and vapor products is declining without prohibitionist policies such as bans. South Carolina policymakers must take into account the declines in youth smoking and vaping in their own state when considering the regulation of these products.

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.