E-cigarettes gain popularity with Ariz. kids
Regular cigarettes are in.
That’s one of the main findings in the 2018 Arizona Youth Survey, which asks, among other things, which illicit substances Arizona’s eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders gravitate toward.
The biennial report, conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, surveyed more than 48,000 students from 245 schools statewide.
Commission members touched upon a few key takeaways from the survey in a press conference Monday morning. are out. E-cigarettes
E-cigarette popularity grows
Use of e-cigarettes, also known as vape pens, has skyrocketed among Arizona’s kids the past couple of years. The battery-operated devices are used to inhale a vapor that can contain nicotine and often includes flavorings, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The report shows nearly 20 percent of surveyed youths used an e-cigarette within the past 30 days. The Arizona Youth Survey didn’t ask students about e-cigarettes until 2016, but usage among high school seniors within 30 days of when they were asked jumped from 17.6 percent in 2016 to 26.1 percent in 2018.
Traditional cigarette use offered a sharp contrast, with only 4.8 percent of students having smoked one within the previous 30 days — a drop of more than 50 percent from 2014’s survey.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said e-cigarettes’ popularity is offsetting the positive benefits from a drop in traditional cigarette use.
“Decades of progress in getting our kids to stop using cigarettes has been undone in really two short years with the e-cigarette industry,” Polk said.
Marijuana use remains steady
Marijuana use hasn’t increased the way e-cigarette use has, the survey found.
Nearly 30 percent of students said they used marijuana within their lifetime, with about half having used within the previous 30 days. But those figures barely increased or remained unchanged across the board between 2014 and 2018.
More than two-thirds of students who did use marijuana said they obtained it through friends, the survey found.
Obtaining marijuana from someone with a medical marijuana card also increased roughly 50 percent in all surveyed grade levels from 2016 to 2018 — a fact that wasn’t lost on Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
“I want to take you back to 2010, when we were told by those who made the argument that what we needed to do was to regulate marijuana so that it could be provided safely and kept away from children,” Montgomery said. “That’s not working so good.”
Montgomery, a vocal opponent of marijuana and its legalization, expressed concern that only about 50 percent of surveyed students believe there is “little to no risk” to using marijuana regularly.
He pinned the conflicting opinions on more and more states legalizing recreational marijuana and asked parents to dissuade their children from indulging in the drug.
“Parents are the firewall,” he said. “Parents are the ones who are going to have to step up and have more of those conversations.”
Alcohol use remains the most prevalent
Although use of e-cigarettes and marijuana has increased among teens over the past couple of years, neither unseated alcohol as the substance of choice.
The survey found 45 percent of students surveyed from all three grades had consumed alcohol at least once in their life, with more than 20 percent consuming it within the previous 30 days.
More than 9 percent said they drank more than five drinks in a row.
Most students said they obtained the alcohol at a party, although adult relatives and home liquor cabinets were also popular avenues.
Nevertheless, the survey suggested alcohol consumption is declining among students.
Alcohol consumption within 30 days among high school seniors dropped from 39.3 percent in 2014 to 30.8 percent in 2018. Grades eight and 10 also saw a drop in consumption, but to a lesser extent.
When asked whether a student used a substance within the past 30 days, 19.9 percent of students said they used an ecigarette and 20.2 percent said they drank alcohol.
Hard drug use remain rare
Although alcohol and e-cigarettes are popular among students, harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine were far less common.
Only 3 percent of students reported using cocaine in their lifetime in 2018, and only 0.8 and 0.5 percent had used meth or heroin respectively.
However, prescription-grade pain relievers like Vicodin, OxyContin and fentanyl were much more prevalent, with 9 percent of students saying they took one without a doctor’s permission during their lifetime.
Maria Christina Fuentes, director of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family, said the state commissions the study every two years to help judge if teen substance abuse prevention efforts are effective.
“In order to see what is working and what isn’t when it comes to prevention efforts, we have to know why and how youth perceive drug use and substance abuse and how that perception is shaped,” Fuentes said.