A new survey finds for the first time in 17 years, tobacco use by Minnesota high school students has increased, with more than 26 percent using some form of tobacco or nicotine. And state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says, “This survey shows that a surprising one in five high school students now use e-cigarettes. That is a 50-percent increase from the last survey in 2014.” Malcolm says e-cigs are threatening to reverse the success the state has had in preventing youth from using tobacco products. Experts warn e-cigs are addictive and the nicotine in them can hurt brain development in young people.
Malcolm says vaping products also pose a new drug use threat. She says, “We added a question to this year’s survey for the first time, and now have new information that a large number of students are using these vaping devices for other illegal drugs, such as recreational marijuana.”
State Health Department officials also said Thursday they do *not* plan to ask the Minnesota Legislature this year to increase the tobacco-purchasing age from 18 up to 21 — even though several communities have passed ordinances. Malcolm says, “I think it’s purely a matter of the reality of the logistics of this short session that is really causing our legislative agendas to be quite targeted this year — but this is not something that we will let go of for future policy discussion.” The legislative session begins next Tuesday.
More from Malcolm in this excerpt from Thursday’s news conference: