E-cigarettes use among Hawaii adolescents is on the rise, according to new data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A federal survey conducted in 2019 shows nearly one in three Hawaii high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month, compared to approximately one in four two years prior.

The percentage of high school students reporting frequent use of e-cigarettes increased to 10.4%, up from the 5% who reported doing so in 2017. The number of teens who said they used e-cigarettes daily also increased from 3.5% to nearly 8% in 2019.

Vape Hawaii located off of Kalakaua Avenue.
Teens in Hawaii are using electronic smoking devices at a much higher rate than they were two years ago. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Lola Irvin, administrator of the Hawaii Department of Health Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, called the trend “alarming.”

“This public health crisis requires policy change,” she said in a statement.

Dr. Bryan Mih, a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Medical Director of Kapiolani Smokefree Families said the increase in youth e-cigarette use is particularly worrisome during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This month, a Stanford University School of Medicine study found a link between e-cigarette use and risk of contracting COVID-19 among youth: among the young people who were tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not.

“The deliberate targeting by the tobacco industry against Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander youth underscores a systemic rift in our state and across the nation,” said Josh Ching, a member of the Hawaii Public Health Institute’s Youth Council. “The tobacco industry has been using flavors, like Hawaiian POG and Hawaii Sweet Roll, tailor-made to entice Hawaii’s youth.”

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