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Youth and vaping

The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey (MSS) added a new set of questions this year, inquiring about students’ use of and attitudes toward e-cigarettes and vaping.

The survey is administered every three years to students across Minnesota, in grades five, eight, nine and 11. It’s a completely voluntary and confidential survey, and is considered to provide a fairly accurate picture of students’ health and well-being. It also provides some insight into students’ practice of dangerous behaviors.

The dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping have become more evident this past year as use of unregulated and “black market” solutions that contain THC, the substance in marijuana that provides the psychological effect. These sketchy solutions have cause lung-damage, disease and death to users.

The MSS shows that 11th grade students tend to see vaping as rather benign (33% say their friends wouldn’t find it at all wrong if they vaped), that they don’t see it as being very risky (16% say it has no risk, and 32% say it’s only a slight risk), and they disagree on how many of them use it (only 9% say they use it daily, but 55% say they think most students in their school use it daily).

So what to do about that nonchalant attitude toward a potentially dangerous activity? Schools and public health programs are working to educate students and their parents on the dangers. But how do you make it less available to students?

Of those students who said they vaped or used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, 72 percent said they got it from a friend, and 22 percent said they got someone else to buy it for them.

There is a move to raise the age for buying tobacco products (including e-cigarettes and vaping products) to 21. That would make it harder for younger students to get it. Fewer kids have friends over 21 who are willing to buy things like cigarettes, e-cigarettes and so on for them.

Until kids realize that inhaling chemicals is a bad idea, we should be making it tougher for them to do it.

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