Southern Utah

Teen e-cigarette use in southern Utah skyrocketing

ST. GEORGE (News4Utah) - Experts at the health department in southern Utah are concerned about teens. They say their use of e-cigarettes is skyrocketing.

"This looks like basically a pen, right? But if you just unscrew it on the end there you just take a hit from here, and then inhale it and it could be easily concealed in school or from parents," said Kye Nordfelt, Director of Health Promotions at the Southwest Utah Health Department.

Nordfelt says recent surveys show Southern Utah twelfth graders vape at rates higher than the national average.

"It's really unusual, particularly in Utah, because Utah is usually well below the national average in every drug use category, so it brings up some real concerns," said Nordfelt.

Nordfelt says in just the last four years, there's been a 350 percent increase in e-cigarette use among Washington County twelfth graders.

"One of the main reasons is just kids just don't perceive e-cigarette's as harmful. It harms brain development, and it can also prime a young brain for addiction," said Nordfelt.

Nordfelt says the best thing a parents can do is talk to their kids.

"Back in the days when you'd come home smelling like cigarette smoke, your parents could identify it pretty easily, but now it smells sweet," said Nordfelt.

"We invite parents, we invite faith leaders, we invite elected officials to be aware that this is happening and do what you can do to educate first off people in your own family, secondly your congregation. Let's find ways to get the message out to teenagers that e-cigarettes are not a good option for them and using them is not going to be a healthy choice for them," said Nordfelt.

Ninety percent of all the youth who took the survey felt smoking cigarettes was harmful, but only 70 percent believed that e-cigarettes could harm them. In Utah it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19, but they are often marketed to young people with flavors like fruit, cotton candy, and bubblegum.

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