New survey results from the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey shows a disturbing increase in the use of e-cigarettes among young people in the state. According to Otter Tail County Public Health Director, Jody Lien, data for County youth show the same concerning increase. “The student survey shows that in a time when cigarette use is at new lows, vaping has shown a stark increase. Our work on educating our youth and the public on the health impacts of nicotine in any form continues,” stated Lien.
Minnesota Department of Health has promoted the evidence that “no amount of nicotine is safe for youth as there may be long-term, damaging effects on learning, memory, attention, behavior problems and future addiction.” Survey data revealed there is misinformation about the health outcomes of e-cigarette use among youth. The survey found that 76 percent of 11th graders believed there is “no to moderate risk” of vaping. At the same time, recent reported cases of severe lung injuries related to vaping have been making headlines, including in Minnesota. Healthcare professionals across the country are working diligently to find the root cause of the illness.
Today, in Otter Tail County a person must be born on or before December 31, 2000 to purchase tobacco products and in Fergus Falls sale and possession of tobacco of any kind for those under 21 is prohibited. That change aims to keep tobacco products out of middle and high-schools. Statewide, many youth under 18 continue to access tobacco products from their over-18 peers giving or selling tobacco products to those underage. The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found 73 percent of 11th graders reported getting tobacco products from friends. Parents and teachers reported their concerns over this ease of access in obtaining tobacco products for those underage, prompting serious discussion about local policy changes and the adoption of Tobacco 21 policies. The County used evidence-based research from the Minnesota Department of Health and other leading health resources including the Minnesota Student Survey to develop the County’s current purchase age ordinance.
Everyone has a role to play in addressing the youth nicotine epidemic. The goal is that these efforts lead teens to understand the risk of vaping and discontinue use of all tobacco products. Tobacco Prevention coordinator, Jason McCoy, works throughout Otter Tail County sharing this message. “Please talk to your youth about the dangers of nicotine addiction and the harm of all tobacco products. Teens who know their parents disapprove of tobacco use are much less likely to start. Flavored tobacco attracts kids, and nicotine addicts them. We must do more to prevent youth addiction. If you are interested in protecting our youth, please reach out to us. Together, we can protect our youth from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and the health costs that come along with tobacco use.”
Otter Tail County Public Health has several resources available for parents, teachers and community partners regarding the health outcomes associated with tobacco and nicotine products. Visit the County webpage at https://ottertailcountymn.us/content-page/tobacco-prevention/