Gov. Inslee cites new data showing alarming increase in adolescent use of electronic cigarettes

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OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee today released new data that shows Washington’s 8th and 10th grade students use electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” at more than twice the rate that they smoke tobacco.

Inslee cited preliminary results from the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey that show 8.5 percent of 8th graders, 18 percent of high school sophomores and 23 percent of high school seniors in Washington state reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. Preliminary data shows consistent trends for cigarette smoking, indicating e-cigarette use is completely additional.

In addition, the Washington Poison Center reports an increase in calls related to vaping fluid from two in 2010 to 182 in 2014. Of the 182 calls in 2014, 133 were in pediatric patients of which 82 percent were in children 1-3 years of age.

Dr. Alexander Garrard of the Poison Control Center said, "If immediate action is not taken, poisonings related to these products will only increase as they become more readily available and accessible."

Inslee said the rate of vaping among Washington’s children is alarming and unacceptable.

“It’s too easy and too cheap for teens to buy and use vaping products,” the governor said. “We have to change that. We must have a system in place like our well-honed tobacco control and prevention efforts that help prevent initial use to begin with and educate kids and parents about the risks of these drug delivery devices.”

Vaping products should not be left around children who may be attracted to fruit and candy smells and pictures on labeling.

“While some claim these are less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, e-cigarettes still have the potential to cause great harm to teens and young children,” Inslee said.

To help explain the critical problem, Inslee was joined by a group of bipartisan legislators, health and education leaders, including Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel and Cedarcrest Jr. High Principal Scott Martin; along with Sarah Bridgeford, Drug Free Communities Coordinator with Franklin Pierce Schools; Dr. David Ricker, Pediatric Pulmonologist with Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital; Heather Graham, a school nurse from the Spokane Valley with the School Nurses of Washington, and others to discuss the new data and critical problem youth face with these drug delivery devices.

Vaping and e-cigarettes put young people at risk of serious health harm, including nicotine addiction, potential effects of nicotine on the developing adolescent brain, and can be a gateway to smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products.

Inslee’s requested legislation builds on efforts related to his Healthiest Next Generation initiative to help ensure healthy kids grow up to become healthy adults. The legislation would require retailers to become licensed to sell vaping products, prohibit Internet sales, ensure child-safe packaging and restrict marketing and sales activities targeted at youth. The bill also implements a tax on vaping products equal to the tax applied to other tobacco products, a proven strategy for reducing consumption of harmful and addicting substances, particularly among youth.

“This is an urgent health concern that must be immediately addressed. Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safe, but scientific evidence suggests they are not,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Vaping may expose our children to harmful toxic chemicals such as lead and formaldehyde as well as nicotine. Prevention can save our children a lifetime of serious health challenges and reduce overall health care costs.”

The Washington State Department of Health will release final Healthy Youth Survey data and reports in March.

Media Contacts

Jaime Smith
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office