Penn State Health Monday reported that though tobacco use has dropped among high school and middle school students in the state, concerns remain about e-cigarettes and cigarettes in schools.
The Penn State survey was given to 2,668 middle school students and 2,017 high school students in the 2014-15 school year, with 74.5 percent of middle school students completing the survey and 64.7 percent of high school students completing the survey.
The survey consisted of questions about whether participants used tobacco products in the last 30 days. The survey did not specify if they used more than once.
Penn State said the survey found that 4.3 percent of middle schoolers admitted to using a tobacco product, with 2.3 percent admitting to using e-cigarettes. About 22.4 percent of high schoolers say they used some kind of tobacco product, and 11 percent said they smoked cigarettes - the "most popular" choice, according to Penn State.
“Nicotine is highly addictive, and tobacco products are not only harmful to your health, but can also affect adolescent brain development,” said Sophia Allen, public health science scholar at Penn State College of Medicine. “Ideally, the data gathered from these types of surveys can help spark discussions about how many youths are using these products and ways to stop it.”
“The results can be interpreted as a warning sign about who’s at risk for prolonged use of these products,” said Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences at the college. “If someone's under 18 and they're already trying these products, past research has shown that’s quite predictive of who will continue to be a daily user and possibly become addicted. This gives us an idea of how many kids are using and how many are at high risk of becoming addicted to these products.”
This survey was the first time questions about e-cigarettes were included. E-cigarettes are not considered tobacco products under the Youth Access to Tobacco Law in the state, according to Penn State, but federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to those younger than 18.
The results of the research were published in February in the online edition of "Preventing Chronic Disease."