Student Survey Shows Vaping Rates Up Sharply, Governor Walz Calls For Aggressive Outreach And Policy Response
New survey results released today show an alarming jump in the rate of teens vaping in Minnesota. In response, Governor Tim Walz is calling for an aggressive, multi-faceted campaign focused on youth education, outreach and tightening limits for accessing vaping products.
E-cigarette vaping among teens has caused an ongoing national outbreak of severe lung injuries.
According to the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, one in four Minnesota 11th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. That represents a 54% increase from the 2016 survey, in which 17% of 11th graders reported vaping. The jump among eighth-graders is even more significant, with nearly twice as many students (11% in 2019 compared to 5.7% in 2016) reporting using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days.
Youth not only continue to use vaping products, but also are ill-informed about the health risks of e-cigarettes. 76% of eleventh graders saying there is either no, slight or a moderate risk to using e-cigarettes. E-cigarette marketing efforts have included child-friendly flavorings and misinformation related to the safety of vaping products.
These survey results come amid the same time the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and partners around the country are racing to determine the cause of severe lung injuries associated with vaping. The latest Minnesota count is now 55 confirmed or probable cases of vaping-related severe lung injuries, and one death. Nationwide, more than 800 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Vaping is a public health crisis for young Minnesotans, and it is critical that we act now to bring the rate down,” said Governor Walz.
Governor Walz has directed the commissioners of health and education to work together to launch an aggressive outreach campaign to provide school officials with information and resources to help as they struggle with vaping in schools. This includes conducting informational briefings across the state as well as other activities to get information to parents, students and health care providers to make sure people understand the risks of vaping.
“Our goal must be to make sure young people and the adults in their lives have the information, support, and resources to fight back against those profiting at the expense of our children’s health and well-being,” said Walz.
“As the mom of a child with asthma and as someone who has advocated for children for my entire career, I am deeply concerned about the rising rates of vaping in our schools and the potential health risks for our future generation, eighth-graders don’t have lobbyists, it’s our responsibility as elected officials, advocates, and adults to fight back on their behalf,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.
Governor Walz has also directed his Administration to determine a set of bold 2020 policy options to combat youth vaping. The list of legislative options under consideration includes: raising the statewide legal age for tobacco to 21; prohibiting the internet sale of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and vaping products; prohibiting the sale of all flavored nicotine and tobacco products; and providing authority for MDH to declare a public health emergency in critical situations.
“The cases of severe lung injuries in Minnesota and other states show how dangerous vaping can be,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
“We should all be very alarmed by the increasing number of eighth-graders who reported vaping, because we know that the earlier a person is exposed to nicotine, the greater their risk in terms of future brain development and addiction,” said Malcolm.
“We will work together to combat this problem, that’s why the Minnesota Department of Education is partnering with Commissioner Malcolm and the Department of Health and working with students, parents, and educators to make sure they have access to the critical information and resources about the health risks, prevention strategies, and how to address the use of vaping in schools,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker.