HONOLULU (KHON2) – By Hawaii state law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to have or use vaping products. However, studies show Hawaii has some of the highest numbers when it comes to underage users.
According to a 2017 Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior survey, 42 percent of high school students and 27 percent of middle schoolers in the state say they’ve tried vaping at least once.
“We have the second highest rate of high school kids vaping in the country,” said Kevin Ramirez, Youth ESD Prevention Project Coordinator for the Hawaii Public Health Institute. “For us, it’s a serious concern because we’ve brought smoking rates down low, but vaping rates continue to rise.”
Experts say some teens try vaping because they think it’s safer than smoking cigarettes, but it still has many of the same chemicals like nicotine.
Some students say vaping has become a part of their daily lives even though they aren’t the ones doing it.
“Yeah, I see kids do it like everywhere,” said Mehu Terlep, a high school student.
When asked how often Mehu and his brother Nui see vaping, they replied, “Everyday.”
Kevin Ramirez coordinates the 808 No Vape Campaign across the state, discouraging the use of e-cigarettes for young adults.
“For some reason e-cigarettes have an appeal to teens that cigarettes don’t, and we believe a part of that, a big reason of that is because there are so many different flavors of e-liquids. 15,000 unique flavors on the market today,” said Ramirez.
Their counter-campaign focuses on the risks of vaping and informing teens about marketing manipulation.
“There are other chemicals, in liquids, in the e-vapor, and in the liquid through the process of aerosolization that scientific studies have shown are not good for our lung cells, our blood cells, and some of those chemicals are carcinogenic which could lead to cancer,” said Ramirez.
He also has advice for parents.
“Be proactive, talk to your kids about e-cigarettes and vaping even if you don’t think your kid may be vaping or your kid is the type to be vaping,” said Ramirez.