Even as the federal government investigates 34 deaths across the U.S. related to vaping, interest in e-cigarettes among Louisiana students is increasing, according to a new survey.
The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living found that the number of students reporting using vape products has doubled since 2017 in the state. In 2019, about 32% of high school students and 15% of middle school students in Louisiana reported vaping more than once, according to the survey, which was conducted this year. About one in four middle school students and half of high school students have tried vaping.
Schools were randomly selected for the anonymous survey, which was optional for students to complete. About 2,700 students were surveyed.
Most students who responded to the survey said they tried vaping because they were curious. For students in middle school, the average age at which they first tried vaping was 12. For students in high school, the average age was 14. Those who vaped more regularly said they were influenced by a friend or family member who vaped.
E-cigarette purchases are restricted to ages 18 and up. But a large portion — about half of high school students and one third of middle school students who vaped — said they bought the devices from friends.
The most recognized brand among high school students was JUUL, the vaping powerhouse currently under fire for its candy- and fruit-flavored nicotine pods that opponents allege are being marketed toward children. JUUL has denied this. Over half of high school students said it was their brand of choice.
In Louisiana, 29 cases of vaping-related illness have been reported to the Department of Health as of October 25.
That’s a sharp increase from the nine cases reported at beginning of September, when the Department of Health first started tracking cases. Of those 29, people ranged in age from 17 to 71, with a median age of 28. Over half said they used a mixture of nicotine and THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, in their e-cigarettes, which use heat to vaporize chemicals into an aerosol that can be inhaled. Twenty-one percent of those with vaping illness in Louisiana reported using just nicotine in e-cigarettes and 21% said they just used THC.
Nationally, 1,604 cases of lung injury from e-cigarette use have been reported from 49 states. Thirty-four deaths from 24 states have been confirmed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.