The Hawaii State Department of Health recently published a snapshot of the results from the state’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a biennial student survey conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite widespread efforts this year to ban adult access to flavored tobacco and vapor products, youth vaping has decreased significantly in Hawaii in recent years, and youth traditional tobacco use is at record lows.
In 2021, among Hawaiian middle school students, 12.8% reported having ever tried an e-cigarette product, 6.7% reported currently using e-cigarettes, defined as having used the product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey, and 1.8% reported frequently using e-cigarettes, defined as using the product 20 days or more.
Similar to national surveys, youth vaping seems to have peaked in 2019 in the Aloha State. Among middle school students, ever-use of vapor products decreased by 58.2% in the past two years, current use decreased by 62.1%, and frequent use declined by 40% between 2019 and 2021.
Youth use of traditional cigarettes is all at record lows. In 2021, among Hawaiian middle school students, 7.1% reported having ever tried a combustible cigarette and 1.9% were currently smoking. Between 1999 and 2021, ever-use of combustible cigarettes declined by 82.9% and current use by 84.6%.
Youth e-cigarette and combustible cigarette use is down among Hawaiian high school students as well.
In 2021, among Hawaiian high school students, 32.4% reported ever using an e-cigarette, 14.8% reported current use, and 6.4% reported frequent use. Between 2019 and 2021, ever-use of e-cigarettes among Hawaii high school students decreased by 32.9%, current use declined by 51.6%, and frequent use by 38.5%.
Similarly, the use of combustible cigarettes is also down. In 2021, 13.3% of Hawaiian high school students reported ever-trying a cigarette and 3% reported current use. Between 1993 and 2021, ever-use of combustible cigarettes among Hawaiian high schoolers declined by 79.7% and current use by 89.4%.
The declines are welcome news as, in recent years, lawmakers in the Aloha State have attempted to impose excessive taxes on electronic cigarettes as well as ban flavors in both tobacco and vapor products, all under the guise of addressing the so-called youth vaping epidemic.
Recently, the director for the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that the agency has quit using the word epidemic to describe youth vaping as the percentage of youth using such products is on the decline.
Given the record lows in traditional cigarette use among Hawaiian youth and the significant declines in vapor product use, Hawaii lawmakers should move past the fake-youth epidemic and embrace the welcome news coming out about youth tobacco and vapor product use in the Aloha State.
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.