Students are still vaping, and that’s a glaring challenge, notes Minnesota’s public health authorities.

70 percent of high school and middle school users report signs of nicotine dependence, reports new data from the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.

At that, 1 in 5 high school students report having used an electronic cigarette in the previous thirty days at the time of the survey.

“This research suggests our public health efforts are working but also that there is a need for continued work,” said Jan Malcolm, the state’s commissioner of health. “In particular, the data on youth vaping alarms us, as we see how this industry continues to use flavors, advertising, internet sales, and other tactics to keep addicting youth to harmful nicotine.”

The survey also suggests that public health efforts have slowed the growth of e-cigarette use in recent years. Electronic cigarette use has held steady in 2020, compared to the astronomical rates in years prior. Luckily, overall tobacco use has declined to a rate of 20.5 percent for high school users and 4.1 percent for middle school users.

Minnesota’s data shows that 4 in 5 students, or 78.4 percent, reported that they used tobacco products for the first time. This rate, too, includes flavored tobacco products.

“These new data are consistent with conversations I’ve had with teens over the past three years in focus groups we conducted about youth vaping behavior and in our vaping prevention workshops,” said Elyse Levine Less in the same press statement as Malcolm’s.

Less is the executive director of the Tobacco-Free Alliance — a tobacco control non-governmental organization working in Minnesota.

“Teens do not intend to get addicted to nicotine and underestimate the risk,” Less said.

The survey also tracked the rate of youth who have vaped marijuana. According to the data, students who use electronic cigarettes are likely to vape liquids that contain some sort of cannabis derivative. 65.1 percent of high school and 71.1 percent of middle school students have vaped. This is a significant increase from data reported since 2017.

“The good news is that we know what it takes to make a positive change; we just need to act,” said Malcolm in a statement. “Minnesota needs a comprehensive approach to reverse the youth tobacco epidemic.”

This is a developing story.

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