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March 21, 2019

Alcohol use remains at an all-time low while vaping use increases among Skagit County youth

While alcohol use among teens remains at an all-time low, and the percentage of teens reporting cigarette smoking is less than half of what it was a decade ago, use of e-cigarette/vapor products has gone up significantly among Skagit County youth, according to the results of the latest Washington Healthy Youth Survey.

Use of vapor products (battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid) in the past 30 days among Skagit County 10th graders increased from 11 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2018. Among 12th graders, use increased from 18 percent in 2016 to 29 percent in 2018.

Aerosols from nicotine-containing vapor products contain nicotine, solvents, particulates, and potentially harmful chemicals. Studies of secondhand vapor are finding the same mix of chemicals as in first-hand vapor, which negatively impacts the quality of individual’s health and access to clean air.
Some of the most popular vapor products are easily concealed. Some vapor liquids contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and include flavors and nicotine salts that make it easier to inhale. Nicotine use can harm the developing brain (which develops until age 25), and can increase risk of addiction to other drugs.

Twenty-four percent of 10th graders who use vapor products report using THC (marijuana) in their vapor product; this rate is 3 percent higher than the state level. Rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady overall, despite the changing landscape with the legalization of marijuana.

“I think most people are aware that nicotine is highly addictive. But nicotine can also be harmful to brain development during adolescences and young adulthood; and we are beginning to learn more about the potentially cancer causing substances contained in vapor aerosol such a diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease,” said Julie de Losada, Skagit County Public Health Analyst, “Older adults should consider that ‘safer than’ does not mean that something is ‘safe;’ and there is no safe use for kids, youth, or young adults.”

Other significant results from the survey:

  • Alcohol use and binge drinking (having five or more drinks in a row) have declined among youth over the past decade, and were relatively stable between 2016 and 2018. Still, 1 in 5 Skagit County 10th graders report using alcohol in the past month, and 1 in 10 binge drank in the past two weeks.

    Nationwide, alcohol use plays a substantial role in all three leading causes of death among youth: injuries, suicides, and homicides. Youth who begin drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder later in life than those who start after age 21 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health).

  • Marijuana use stayed consistently at 18 percent among 10th graders; however, use increased among 12th graders from 23 percent in 2016 to 30 percent in 2018.

    Perception of risk of harm from regular marijuana use has gone down since 2016. In 2018, about one in five 8th graders, one in three 10th graders, and almost half of 12th graders perceived little risk to regular use. Decreases in perceived risk increase the possibility of future use. Any underage use can impact brain development.

  • Depression levels among Skagit County 8th, 10th, and 12th graders increased since 2016. Similarly, more Skagit County students (across grade levels) reported experiencing suicidal ideation in 2018 than in 2016.

About the Healthy Youth Survey
Students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 take the Healthy Youth Survey every two years, voluntarily answering a wide variety of questions about health behaviors from substance use to mental health and school climate. In the fall of 2018, more than 230,000 took part in the survey, state-wide. The responses from about 32,000 of those students are used for the statewide sample, with remaining participation informing local results. The survey provides state and community organizations with information to help decide teen health issues to focus on.

The survey is a collaborative effort between the Washington State health Care Authority (HCA), the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB). For more information about the survey, including other results and facts sheets, visit www.askHYS.net.

Additional resources
Parents and guardians are the number one influence on children’s decisions around substance use. All adults can help teens avoid the negative consequences of substance use by talking with them early and often about risks, locking up any alcohol marijuana or prescription drugs in the home, reminding them that most of their peers are making healthy choices, and having clear rules and consequences to discourage use.