Colorado youth survey: Eagle County’s tough tobacco regs already showing an impact
It didn’t take long for Eagle County’s restrictive tobacco use policies to show an impact, as demonstrated in the 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
The survey, conducted by the state in the fall of odd-numbered years, reaches high school and middle school students across the state. Colorado officials collect and weigh the survey data and present the results in the comprehensive Healthy Kids report. School districts, youth programs and other entities then use the survey data to steer efforts that include prevention and intervention programs and grant applications.
This week Mandy Ivanov, Health Promotion Coordinator for Eagle County, presented a sliver of the survey results to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners. Her presentation specifically addressed what the survey showed regarding local youth tobacco use and vaping.
“I immediately went to the tobacco question results given we passed some pretty significant policy at the county level last year,” Ivanov said.
Last fall, Eagle County officials raised the legal purchase age for tobacco and tobacco-use products to 21 and county voters overwhelmingly approved a $4 per pack of cigarettes /40% on other tobacco products sales tax. Judging by the data collected by Healthy Kids Colorado, those actions produced nearly immediate results.
The survey showed that only 9% of high school students had smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days. That figure is down from 13% in the 2017 survey.
“And those figures had been trending upwards over the last five or six years,” Ivanov noted.
Only 14% of the survey respondents said they had purchased cigarettes from a store. That compared to 61% in 2017, prior to the new purchase age regulations.
Vape device use among high school students also dropped, showing 29% of local high school students reported vape device use during the previous 30 days. That was down from 39% in 2017.
The number of students who had ever tried vaping remained steady at 56% in the most recent survey. However, age regulations also impacted where kids purchase vaping supplies. Only 6% of students who used vape devices reported they purchased the devices from a store. That compares to 51% who purchased vape devices from a store in 2017.
But even with the sales restrictions, 69% of students said it was easy or very east to obtain vape products.
“In our valley, we have significantly more youth who bought their vaping supplies from brick and mortar stores than elsewhere in the state,” Ivanov said. She noted its likely that kids cans still easily obtain vaping products from social contacts, but that should become more difficult as time progresses.
“This is a question we will want to monitor in the coming years,” she said.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said the survey results support the idea that the county’s restrictive policies are reducing youth smoking and vaping.
“It is really interesting to see some policy take effect that quickly,” she said.
As Ivanov noted, the tobacco products portion of the Healthy Kids Colorado survey is only one small part of the overall data. “It is really a comprehensive survey. At the high school level there are 137 different questions,” she said.
Those questions cover everything from drug use, to behavioral health to sleep patterns and while various community entities use the data, Ivanov suggested there needs to be more outeach with the people who actually provided the answers.
“We would like to hear what the youth have to say about this,” she said. To that end, there is an effort underway to bring in youth focus groups at one local high school and one local middle school this fall.
Becky Larson, assistant Eagle County Public Health Director, agreed the best use of the data is to dig into the results.
“Right now it is just numbers,” Larson said. “When you look at the numbers on a page, there are questions that are important to ask.”
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