The Bulletin Board

‘A lifetime of addiction’: State public health leader sounds alarm about youth vaping

By: - July 28, 2022 11:55 am

The Executive Council approved more money to address vaping among pre-teens and adolescents. (Justin Sullivan | Getty Images)

Nearly 34 percent of New Hampshire high school students and 50 percent of 12th grade boys have vaped, enough to make youth vaping a “huge public health crisis,” the state’s public health chief told executive councilors Wednesday. 

“We know we’ve heard from teachers, coaches, parents, everyone that this is a huge issue because we know with vaping, if you use tobacco or nicotine products, you’re equally susceptible for a lifetime of addiction,” said Trish Tilley, director of the Division of Public Health Services at Health and Human Services. “Studies have always shown that if you start smoking and using addictive tobacco products by (age) 13, 14, you really are setting yourself up for a lifetime of addiction.”

Tilley made the remarks while asking the council to add $75,000 to a $440,000 contract with JSI Research & Training Institute in Bow for a campaign promoting vaping prevention and treatment to pre-teens and adolescents. The council agreed in a 5-0 vote.

The vaping use data came from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an anonymous questionnaire that House Republicans sought to weaken this year. 

The survey asks high schools students about their exposure to substances, sexual activity, abuse and bullying, and home life. Law enforcement, child advocates, and public health leaders use the results to prioritize public health efforts and seek grant funding. 

In a 183-164 party-line vote in March, the House passed a bill requiring parents to give their child permission to take the test rather than require they opt their child out, a change opponents said would have significantly reduced participation and skewed results. The bill died when House members refused to agree to Senate demands that it remain opt-out. 

Tilley said the state expects to have the data from the 2021 survey soon. The 2019 results and the 2021 questions are on the Department of Health and Human Services website by searching “Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” 

The additional funding approved by the council will be go toward training and technical assistance for providers on tobacco and nicotine dependence treatment. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.