Youth E-Cigarette Use: Concerning Trends and Progress

Youth E-Cigarette Use: Concerning Trends and Progress
A survey found that 80% of underage e-cigarette users in New Zealand had never smoked before, but smoking rates have decreased.

According to the Youth19 survey published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in December last year, 80% of underage e-cigarette users and nearly 50% of regular e-cigarette users had never smoked before starting to use e-cigarettes.

Since 2017, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) has been discussing the issue of teenagers vaping," said ARFNZ CEO Letitia Harding. "The Youth19 study provides further evidence that this is a problem. While e-cigarettes can be a useful tool for smokers trying to quit when combined with behavioral support, many children and young people are starting to use e-cigarettes without ever having smoked. E-cigarettes are not harmless and are easily addictive. There is now a body of research showing that nicotine has negative effects on adolescent brain development.

However, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in December emphasized that the increase in electronic cigarette use has led to a decrease in smoking rates, which is a more positive situation than before. The smoking rate decreased from 11.9% in 2019-2020 to 9.4% in the survey conducted in 2021.

The smoking rate among Māori students has decreased by 40%. What is even more significant is that all ethnic groups of students have shown a decline in smoking rates, with Māori students leading with a 40% decrease. Given that smoking has been a major issue for Māori people, this figure is particularly important.

ASH director Deborah Hart added that these findings, along with recent results, indicate that teenagers have achieved the 2025 smoke-free goal of a daily smoking rate below 5%. "We are pleased with this result because smoking kills 5,000 New Zealanders every year," she said.

She added that another study revealed similar data. "The survey results are consistent with the trend of young people shown in the 2021 New Zealand Health Survey. This is the biggest decrease in teenage smoking rates in a decade, and seeing young people leading New Zealand towards a smoke-free future is very encouraging," Hart said.

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