Teenage Tobacco Use Drops, But E-Cigarettes On The Rise – St. Lucia Times

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

Surveys conducted by the Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat (SAACS) show a decline in tobacco use by youngsters aged 13 to 15 but a surge in the use of e-cigarettes.

SAACS conducted the tobacco surveys in 2000, 2017, and 2020.

“We have seen the prevalence decline. In 2020, it was 13 percent, including both boys and girls. In 2007 it was 17 – it went up a bit. But in 2017, we saw it at 10 percent,” SAACS Programme Officer Substance Abuse – Caleb Paul told St. Lucia Times.

He attributed the decline partly to SAACS and Health Ministry awareness initiatives in schools.

However, Paul disclosed that eleven percent of respondents, most of them young men, indicated electronic cigarette use in the 2017 survey.

The SAACS official explained that marketers promote electronic cigarettes or electronic devices as harmless and sometimes as non-nicotine delivery systems.

Nevertheless, Paul told St. Lucia Times that the tobacco industry uses those new products to introduce young people to nicotine, thereby grooming a new group of dependents.

He expressed concern that e-cigarettes could become a stepping stone to other substances, especially with the new devices where the nicotine concentration is more significant than in a cigarette.

“Nicotine in these vapes and electronic cigarettes, in the liquid form, one pod or one cartridge, can almost be equivalent to 20 cigarettes. For a young developing brain, that can cause serious damage,” Paul warned.

“When a brain is already becoming dependent, it is easy for someone to lean towards another substance in a more potent form,” he explained.

Paul urged all stakeholders, including parents and community leaders, to join his organisation in raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco use.

SAACS will conduct another youth tobacco use survey either at the end of 2024 or in 2025.