CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released a report in response to the rapid rise in e-cigarette usage among teens.
West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination was a report that was also prepared in the context of DHHR’s ongoing investigation of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated with lung injury.
E-cigarettes were first introduced more than a decade ago when tobacco use among youth was continuing to decline in West Virginia and across the U.S. Vaping among youth was present, but markedly lower than use of combustible cigarettes. With the development of small, readily disguisable, and flavored products introduced and marketed by the industry in recent years, youth nicotine use has skyrocketed.
Adult and youth tobacco use in West Virginia has historically exceeded national levels. Youth use of and exposure to nicotine-based products in West Virginia has escalated in the past two years. More than one in three, or 35.7 percent, of West Virginia high school students report current use of e-cigarettes. This is a 150 percent increase from 2017 -2019 alone.
In 2019, more than 60 percent of high school students, or 62.4 percent, report having tried e-cigarettes. This is up from 44.4 percent in 2017.
Since 2017, West Virginia high school students reported frequent use of vaping products (20 or more days a month), an increase by almost 440 percent from 3.1 percent to 16.7 percent.
“This report, compiled in part with data from the West Virginia Department of Education, is critical to addressing the youth vaping epidemic in West Virginia. This trend is alarming given the irreparable, adverse impact of nicotine use during adolescence, a time of rapid and continuing brain and social development,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Nicotine use can make West Virginia’s youth susceptible to lifelong addiction and potentially promote addiction to other substances.”