The percentage of Arkansas public school students who have ever used an electronic cigarette is rising, according to data from the Arkansas Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (APNA).
In 2018, nearly half (44.3%) of 12th graders reported using an e-cigarette at least once during their lifetime, up from 39.3% in 2017. For 10th graders, the percentage is 36.9%, up 6.4 percentage points from 2017. Even children in intermediate grades are getting their hands on e-cigarettes: 6.8% of sixth graders reported that they have used an e-cigarette at least once during their lifetime.
The survey also collects data on the average age of students’ first-time use and students’ perceptions of how easy it is to acquire e-cigarettes. Among the sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grade students surveyed in 2018 who said they had used an e-cigarette, the average age of first-time users was 14. Fifty-seven percent of 12th graders, 47% of 10th graders, 27.6% of eighth graders, and 9% of sixth graders reported that e-cigarettes were “sort of easy” or “very easy” to obtain.
Recent hospitalizations and deaths linked to e-cigarette use and increasing use among Arkansas youth has sparked concerns by policymakers in Arkansas and at the federal level. In a joint Public Health Committee meeting on Sept. 9, members heard from experts on the issue of e-cigarette use. ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson joined other health experts and a school official in discussing this issue with members of the committees. On Monday, Sept. 16, Senate President Pro-Tem Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, announced his intention to address the issue through legislation and a potential special legislative session.
After preliminary numbers from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) were released showing increased rates of e-cigarette use among U.S. youth, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday, Sept. 11, its priority to finalize draft guidance requiring premarket authorization for non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.
For a discussion of policy options for regulating e-cigarettes, see this explainer from last year.