The Utah Department of Health and Human Services recently released the results of the state’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for 2023. Conducted biennially, the YRBS assesses various behaviors of U.S. high school students, including their dietary habits, sexual history, and substance use.

The survey brought welcome news to parents and policymakers alike; it showed a continued decline in tobacco and vapor product use among students. 

In 2023, only 1.1% of Utah high school students reported current use of combustible cigarettes, defined as using the product at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. This marked a 42.1% decrease from 2021 and a significant (90.8%) reduction from 1999—when 11.9% of students smoked. Furthermore, lifetime cigarette use—that is, having ever tried smoking—also declined to 9.5%, representing a 75.8% decrease from 1999.

The use of other tobacco products has also diminished. Only 1% of students reported current use of smokeless tobacco products (including snus products) in 2023, and 1.2% currently smoked cigars. These figures represent a 64.3% decrease in smokeless tobacco use and an 82.9% decline in cigar smoking since 1999.

While traditional tobacco use is at historic lows, attention has shifted toward the use of vapor products among youth. Similar to national trends, youth vaping in Utah peaked in 2019, with 30.5% of high schoolers having ever tried an e-cigarette and 9.7% reported current use. By 2023, these numbers had dropped to 19.6% and 5.7%, respectively—a 35.7% decrease in ever use and a 41.2% decrease in current use since 2019.

Despite the decline in youth vaping, the number of Utah adults using e-cigarettes has risen. In 2022, 7.6% of Utahns aged 18 and older reported current e-cigarette use, which is 35.6% greater than the youth vaping rates in 2023. There appears to be a direct correlation between the increase in vapor product use among adults and the decrease in smoking rates. In fact, in 2022, only 6.7% of adults smoked, which is 12.9% fewer than those who vaped.

Given the ongoing reduction in youth vaping rates, policymakers should avoid implementing overly restrictive measures, such as excessive taxation or bans on certain products. As a tobacco harm reduction tool, e-cigarettes have proven effective in helping adults quit smoking and maintain a smoke-free lifestyle.

Lindsey Stroud is a Visiting Fellow at Independent Womens Forum, a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and a board member with the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.