New study finds vaping on the rise among Los Angeles high schoolers

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Additional Reporting By Rachel Bluth

Cigarette smoking has reached a historic low among Los Angeles County high school students, but vaping is on the rise, with more than 30 percent of students reporting that they have used e-cigarette products, according to a survey released today.

According to the 2017-18 California Student Tobacco Survey and the California Healthy Kids Survey, 10% of Los Angeles County high school students regularly use e-cigarettes, up from 6.4% the previous year. E-cigarettes used for vaping were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school students, the survey found. Only about 1.7% of students expressed a preference for cigarette smoking.

According to the survey, 83% of high school students who use tobacco reported using a flavored product, with fruit or sweet flavors the most popular.

Dessert-flavored vape products?

Young adults who are exposed to advertisements for these non-cigarette tobacco products are significantly more likely to try them, according to a study of nearly 11,000 people ages 12 to 24 published last year in JAMA.

Anti-smoking advocates battled for decades against the tobacco industry’s cigarette-marketing strategy geared to young people. What many viewed as “first-step” restrictions on traditional “combustible” cigarettes were advanced as part of the 2001 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between state attorneys general and the industry. But many worry that gaps still exist.

“Our study reinforces that tobacco product marketing continues to be an important contributor to tobacco use among young people,” wrote the study authors.

Thirty-six percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who had never used tobacco but were receptive to ads ended up trying e-cigs by the end of the study.

Study participants were selected because they answered survey questions that indicated they were at low risk of using tobacco. They said they had never touched tobacco and “definitely” would not in the next year.

But almost 5 percent of them tried smoking e-cigarettes for the first time over the next 12 months, saying the ads for these particular products appealed to them more than ads for regular cigarette ads.

That translates to 224,000 new smokers a year, according to John Pierce, the lead researcher and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California-San Diego Cancer Center.

“If that happens every year, we’re going to have a huge problem with cigarettes again,” Pierce said.

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