Survey: Fewer Montana Teens Smoke, More Turning To E-Cigs

While the 2015 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates a slow and steady decline in student cigarette, cigar and smokeless tobacco use, the survey also confirms an alarming rate of Montana youth are using electronic cigarettes.

Fifty-one percent of Montana high school students report they’ve tried an electronic vapor product and 29.5 percent say they are current users. Electronic cigarettes have become more than twice as popular as any other traditional tobacco product. Thirteen percent of Montana students indicated they are cigarette smokers, 12.6 percent cigar/cigarillo smokers and 12.3 percent use smokeless tobacco. In fact, Montana high school students report they use electronic cigarettes more than all other tobacco products combined. National surveys have indicated youth electronic cigarette use tripled in the U.S. between 2013 and 2014.

YRBS Tobacco Chart FINALThe Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey is conducted every two years. Students volunteer to answer questions about drug use, tobacco use, sex and other habits. The 2015 YRBS was the first time Montana students were asked about electronic-vapor product use.

As technology changes to include products like electronic cigarettes, its important Montana’s students get the most current information on the health impacts of using e-cigarettes. Montana’s health enhancement content standards haven’t been updated since 1999, four years before e-cigarettes were invented. New health enhancement content standards that will be reviewed next week by a negotiated rulemaking committee will modernize standards and place a stronger emphasis on refusal skills and the long-term health impacts of things like nutrition, tobacco use, and physical activity.

The long term health effects of these relatively-new devices are unknown, but most electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, the highly addictive stimulant in tobacco proven to have harmful effects on the developing brain.

“Electronic vapor products are proving to be a very dangerous threat to the great gains we’ve made in tobacco use prevention among youth” says Richard Opper, Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. “Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and the CDC reports that 44 percent of non-smoking youth who have used electronic cigarettes say they have intentions to use cigarettes within the next year.”

The Montana Legislature passed a law last spring making it illegal for teens under 18-years-old to purchase electronic cigarettes and vapor products. Still, not all schools have banned vapor products on their campuses.

The Office of Public Instruction and DPHHS work in tandem to encourage school districts to adopt comprehensive tobacco-free policy prohibiting electronic cigarettes on campus, in district vehicles and at school sponsored events. While 70 percent of Montana school districts have adopted the policy needed, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau would like to see all Montana school districts prohibit the devices.

“Working together, we can best serve Montana youth by creating a healthy environment, free from addiction and the harmful effects of tobacco, nicotine and other drugs,” said Juneau.