Survey finds big increase in number of 11th graders who vape

DES MOINES — The state medical director says while very few Iowa kids are smoking cigarettes these days, there’s been a sharp increase in the use of other kinds of nicotine products.

Dr. Caitlin Pedati says 22 percent of 11th graders admitted on a 2018 survey that they used e-cigarettes to “vape.” “That’s in contrast to just two years prior when only nine percent of 11th graders reported using those products,” Pedati says.

Dr. Pedati, who works in the Iowa Department of Public Health, is state medical director and state epidemiologist. She says the U.S. Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use among youth to be an epidemic for good reason.

“We know that nicotine is highly addictive. We know that it can affect things like learning, memory and attention — especially in people whose brains are still developing which happens until about age 25,” Pedati says. “There’s also a concern that some of these products may contain things we don’t even know about and so they might have short or long term health effects.”

Research also shows routine nicotine use among teenagers increases anxiety. A 2018 survey found two percent of sixth graders and eight percent of eighth graders admitted they had “vaped” and state officials warn they’re using things that look like wrist watches, computer thumb drives or pens that adults may not recognize as a vaping device.

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