Alcohol use on the decline, vaping on the rise among teens DHSS survey shows

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - More high schoolers are sad, suicidal and vaping, a new survey from the Department of Health and Social Services shows. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey was completed by almost 2,000 high schoolers in the state on a voluntary basis and shows a sharp rise in some risky behavior.

The survey states that one out of four adolescents has vaped in the past 30 days -- an increase from the one in six students who reported using e-cigarettes in 2017.

Suicidal ideation is also on the rise with one out of three high schoolers saying they felt sad or hopeless for a period of two weeks or more. One in five of the surveyed high schoolers said they had attempted suicide.

While vaping among teens is on the rise, the survey did show that the percentage of adolescents who smoked cigarettes decreased from 18% in 2007 to 8% last year. While a decrease in smoking cigarettes is hailed as a positive development, epidemiologists worry about the large rise in e-cigarette use.

"When using these devices, teens breathe in chemicals and nicotine. This nicotine is damaging to their developing brains and it’s addicting," Dr. Andrea Fenaughty, senior epidemiologist for the Alaska Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion said. "Our Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is focusing its efforts on improving education about vaping for teens and their parents and supporting strategies to prevent use and help quitting.”

The survey also shows alcohol use among high schoolers has declined from 40% in 2007 to 21% in 2019.

The survey was conducted in 2019 and happens every other year in Alaska.

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