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Survey: Half of Louisiana high schoolers have vaped

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NEW ORLEANS — While there is a rise in hospitalizations and deaths linked to vaping, it's use is also on the rise. Half of high school students in Louisiana have tried e-cigarettes according to a recent report.

About 2,700 Louisiana high school and middle school students from randomly selected schools filled out a survey for Tobacco Free Living. About 1-out-of-4 middle school students and 51.5% of high school students claimed to have used an e-cigarette at least once.

"Those rates for us, is a concern," said Tonia Moore, Director of Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living.

Nearly 32% of high school students currently vape. That's more than twice the number of high school users from 2017 and three times the number from 2015.

Use among middle school students is rising too. 15.4% of middle school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days of the time they filled out the survey. Most students claim they tried vaping out of curiosity, with Juul being the most popular brand.

"That product has really been targeted and marketed toward the youth community," Moore said.

One of Moore's biggest concerns is the number of students who don't think e-cigarettes are harmful to their health. A third of high school students said they thought e-cigarettes were less harmful than other tobacco products, according to the report.

"They do see this as a healthier option or they don't see this as an issue, that to me is alarming," Moore said.

According to Moore, the products are damaging to the lungs, brain development, and body, and are not a safer alternative to cigarettes.

"Some of those products contain nicotine that is equivalent to two packs of cigarettes," she said.

The CDC reports a growing number of lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products. At least 1,888 cases nationwide and at least 37 confirmed deaths.

"29 hospitalizations have occurred in Louisiana," Moore said.

It's an epidemic among youth that's showing no signs of slowing down. Most middle school students who claimed to have vaped, said they first tried it at 12 years old.