Tobacco Prevention

Survey shows Minnesota youth tobacco use rising for the first time in 17 years

Youth e-cigarette use up 50 percent since 2014

A new survey shows for the first time since 2000, overall youth tobacco use has increased in Minnesota, with 26.4 percent of high school students using some form of tobacco or nicotine, up from 24.6 percent in 2014.

Youth e-cigarette use is at its highest point ever recorded.

The rapid uptake of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices has quickly reversed a long-term trend of declining teen tobacco use in Minnesota, according to new results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The new data show one in five high school students use e-cigarettes, a nearly 50 percent increase since the data were last collected in 2014. At the same time, youth cigarette smoking has reached an all-time low. Less than 10 percent of high school students now smoke cigarettes – a 70 percent drop since 2000.

E-cigarettes pose a serious health risk.

Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can harm brain development as teens grow. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. Adolescence is a critical window for brain growth and development, when the brain is still “under construction”; there could be negative implications for learning, memory, and attention. Evidence also suggests that nicotine primes the adolescent brain for addiction, increasing the risk of future addictions not only to tobacco, but other substances like illicit drugs.

Recent evidence also suggests that, compared to youth who have never used them, youth who have tried e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking in the future.

Communities are taking action to reduce youth tobacco use.

Tobacco control has many highly effective, evidence-based strategies to prevent youth initiation and reduce youth access. Local communities are working to:

  • Increase the minimum sales age to 21.
  • Reduce youth access to e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
  • Limit flavored and menthol tobacco sales.
  • Increase the minimum pack and price of cigars.
  • Increase compliance and enforcement efforts of youth access laws.

About the survey

The Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (MYTS), conducted since 2000 by the Minnesota Department of Health, is a representative sample survey, which provides comprehensive, in depth information on the tobacco use of young people and to design and evaluate prevention efforts. The seventh MYTS was conducted in 2017 and included participation from 4,112 students from 70 public schools.

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MDH recently released a health advisory on nicotine and the escalating risk of addiction for youth. This advisory dives deeper into the threat of nicotine addiction.

Youth e-cigarette use has risen dramatically in Minnesota in the last three years, with an almost 50 percent increase in high school student e-cigarette use since 2014. This is a major public health concern. Youth use of nicotine increases their risk of addiction, and can make them more susceptible to addiction to tobacco products and other substances in the future. 

Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and popular e-cigarettes, like JUUL, are sleek and concealable and often used in schools by students. It is important that school staff are familiar with these products and that they have the resources to educate students on the risks of e-cigarette use. To help address youth e-cigarette use in schools, MDH also released an updated school toolkit outlining resources and opportunities for action by school administrators, educators, teachers and health services staff.

MDH recommends immediate action requiring the participation of parents, educators, health care providers and policy makers.

Access these resources and more at www.health.mn.gov/ecigarettes.

Young people build leadership skills at Tobacco-Free Alliance to advocate for a tobacco-free generation

elyse lessYoung people have long been the target of advertising and marketing by the tobacco-nicotine industry, especially by promoting menthol and flavored tobacco products to youth in marginalized groups, such as people of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ people. Now young people are powering big changes in tobacco laws.

The Tobacco-Free Alliance working to empower youth and build the skills they need to make positive changes in their community.

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Morgen Sedlacek, Shift MN Program Specialist, doesn’t want to shame smokers, but to create healthy alternatives to smoking for LGBTQ-identifying Minnesotans.Big Tobacco heavily targets the LGBTQ community with advertising, a key factor that helps explain why  35% of LGBTQ-identifying Minnesotans report smoking, vaping, or chew tobacco. Staff members at Shift MN, a program of JustUs Health (formerly Rainbow Health Initiative and the Minnesota AIDS Project), are compassionately helping LGBTQ young people find healthy alternatives to tobacco, and supporting tobacco users who want to quit.

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People with mental illnesses die on average 20 to 25 years earlier than their peers without mental illnesses. Many of these deaths are due to health problems caused by smoking, including lung cancer, COPD, and heart disease.

NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness), an organization that for more than four decades has offered education, support  and advocacy on behalf of those with a mental illness, has been expanding its work to address the health and wellness of people living with a mental illness, especially to encourage smoking cessation.

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Beau Sinchai, Pillsbury United Communities’ Design Lead and Project CoordinatorSmoking is more prevalent among those with lower incomes and lower levels of education in Minnesota—partly due to tobacco companies marketing heavily in low-income neighborhoods.

The challenges of poverty cause immense stress in people’s lives, so it’s understandable that for some people quitting smoking can feel like yet another challenge. But learning what smokers experience in their daily lives—as the nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities (PUC) is doing—can offer a path for reducing stress and supporting smokers more compassionately when they are ready to quit.

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image of Raul Fernandez Health disparities, including higher rates of commercial tobacco use, disproportionately affect Latinos in Minnesota, especially among LGBTQ Latinos and Latinos living with mental illness.

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) research is showing that Latinos who suffer from a mental illness, who have a history of trauma, and those who struggle with their sexual identity share two common obstacles. CLUES is developing culturally-based approaches to both.

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Updated Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 10:14AM