MILWAUKEE — As the World Health Organization on Wednesday put ongoing issues tied to smoking in the global spotlight with their annual World No Tobacco Day, data in Wisconsin presents a mixed bag, specifically when it comes to kids and teens smoking statewide.
“The good news is that smoking cigarettes has declined in young people over the past several years,” said Dr. Brian Williams, a pediatric hospitalist with UW Health Kids. “The challenge currently is that we’re seeing an increase in e-cigarette use.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that smoking cigarettes among high school students has fallen from 33% in 2000 to 6.1% in 2016. But upwards of 20% of high school students now consider themselves regular users of e-cigarettes or vaping products.
“We know [even] in the short-term that using e-cigarettes can decrease both your lung function and have some effect on the function of your heart,” Williams said.
He said some of the challenges come from advertising related to the product.
“E-cigarettes have really been advertised as a safer alternative to smoking,” Williams said. “In reality, we know that e-cigarettes are not safe.”
Williams said e-cigarettes have many toxins in them, as well as carcinogens and nicotine.
“I do worry that young people that use these devices regularly are setting themselves up for long-term consequences,” he said.
Williams said it’s important for parents to talk to their kids starting in late elementary school and middle school about the harms of e-cigarettes.
Watch the full interview above.