Health officials: Data shows 'alarming' rise in youth vaping

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — New data shows an "alarming" rise in vaping by Rhode Island high school students, state health officials said Thursday.

The Rhode Island Department of Health said 10.2% of high school students now report frequent use of vaping products, compared to 3.7% in 2017. Frequent use means using vaping products on 20 or more days in the month prior to taking the survey.

The department's 2019 youth risk behavior survey also found 30.1% of high school students reported vaping at least once in the last 30 days, compared to 20.1% in 2017. Overall, 48.9% of high school students and 16.4% of middle school students reported trying vaping in 2019.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said the numbers are a "wake-up call."

"Electronic cigarettes are dangerous. They're also responsible for getting more teenagers addicted to nicotine every year, primarily because of products that come in candy-like flavors," Raimondo said in a statement. "That's why I took action this September. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our kids."

Raimondo signed an executive order banning flavored vaping products in September, saying that a ban is necessary to protect children.

A Superior Court judge denied an industry association's request Tuesday for a temporary restraining order against the ban. The Washington-based Vapor Technology Association and the owner of RI e-Cig and Vapes, Donna Dionne, didn't immediately say whether they'll continue pursuing the case.

The health department is also convening an advisory committee to monitor vaping developments and recommend next steps to promote public health.

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