by: Alex Denis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Electronic-cigarette use in teens is an issue both schools and law enforcement are warning about.
One state agency set out to discover just how far-reaching the issue has become. The results are in, and the findings may surprise parents.
More than 18,000 Tennessee students in grades 8th, 10th and 12th, participated in the survey administered by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse looking to uncover what illegal activities youth are exposed to and participating in.
“It surveys on topics such as age of initiation, past 30-day use, lifetime use, perception of risk, what substances are being used, and the prevalence of that,” said Anthony Jackson.
As the director of substance use prevention, Jackson poured over the results and explains a few key points stand out.
“The biggest issue we’re seeing in the data is vaping.” Jackson said, “The reality is vaping is the biggest issue because of its accessibility.”
Whether they got the vape pen from a friend or older sibling, most respondents seemed unaware of the health risks associated, which has led to younger kids taking a puff without pause.
“’Oh, it smells good. Oh, it tastes good. It doesn’t even have nicotine in it. ‘t’s just flavored water,’” said Jackson citing some of the reasons youth vape.
The survey found students who admit to vaping in their lifetime is second only to trying alcohol.
Yet vape use in the past 30 days takes the No. 1 spot – up significantly more than the use of prescription drugs, binge drinking, cigarettes, or marijuana.
“A lot of what my job is that primary prevention piece. That’s educating before use to prevent future use,” said Jackson.
The findings will be shared with participating schools to help adjust curriculum to better educate kids on facts that seem unclear.
“We don’t do scare tactics because they can do more harm than good,” he said.
Instead, reasonable conversations with youth make the difference long-term.
Help your teen quit by contacting the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or text “quit” to (615) 795-0600 or visit this link right now.