The share of Maine high school students using e-cigarettes has nearly doubled in the past two years, according to state data released Friday, prompting Gov. Janet Mills to announce a new anti-vaping campaign set to launch early next year.
Some 28.7 percent of Maine high school students this year had used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days, up from 15.3 percent in 2017, according to new data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey given in schools every two years.
“Vaping poses a serious risk to the health of young people across Maine, and as this disturbing data shows, far too many are drawn in by the false allure of e-cigarettes,” Mills said. “Young people know that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to their health. Now, it is important they understand that vaping is also dangerous.”
The state’s education and prevention campaign will target young people through social media, YouTube, TV, radio and other platforms to warn them about the risks of vaping. The outreach will be funded from the sales of e-cigarette products.
Mills said she also wants to eliminate a provision in state law that still allows some individuals under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. A law that set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products took effect in July 2018, but the provision grandfathered in anyone who had turned 18 as of July 1, 2018.
The governor said she plans to introduce legislation in the Legislature’s upcoming session that would set the minimum purchase age at 21 for everyone.
The increase in the use of e-cigarettes in Maine aligns with the most recent national data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which show that 27.5 percent of U.S. high school students report having used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, up from 11.7 percent in 2017.
“Notably, the 2019 responses show a decrease in the percentage of Maine students who smoke or use other forms of conventional tobacco products,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Young people in Maine are getting the message that tobacco use is dangerous. But they need to realize that vaping also poses great risks to their health.”