Data Shows Half of Utah Youth Who Report Using Alcohol Also Vaping: Nicotine and alcohol affect the development of the brain

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(Salt Lake City, UT) – In 2017, more than half (59.8%) of Utah youth reporting alcohol use in the past 30 days also reported using electronic cigarettes or vape products. Both alcohol and nicotine can damage the developing brain.

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) teamed up to look at how Utah youth are using both alcohol and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The findings show high co-occurrence for use of both substances.

“About one-fourth of Utah youth who drank alcohol in the past 30 days reported that they also smoked conventional cigarettes,” said Karlee Adams, program manager for the UDOH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “Nicotine is highly addictive and most adult smokers become dependent before the age of 19, making use of tobacco products among adolescents a concern.”

Additional highlights from the report showed:

  • Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 were significantly more likely to report ever trying alcohol (22.3%) and e-cigarettes (23.1%) than conventional cigarettes (11.9%).
  • More than 11% of students reported current e-cigarettes use, followed by alcohol use (8.8%), and cigarette smoking (2.9%).
  • Use of cigarettes was highest in Tri-County Health District (5.9%), comprised of Uintah, Duchesne, and Daggett Counties.
  • Use of e-cigarettes was highest in Weber-Morgan Health District (15.0%).
  • Youth alcohol use was highest in Southeast Utah Health District (15.3%), comprised of Carbon, Emery, and Grand Counties.

“We know that alcohol and nicotine can affect how a teen’s brain develops. Use of these products alone or together can ‘hard-wire’ the brain for addiction into their adult life,” said Susannah Burt, prevention program manager at the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Data was analyzed from the Utah SHARP (Student Health and Risk Prevention) survey, which is conducted in Utah public schools in the spring of odd-numbered years in collaboration with the UDOH, DHS, and the Utah State Board of Education. The survey asks questions about physical and mental health, substance abuse, anti-social behaviors, and the risk and protective factors that predict these behaviors.

“Even though more research is needed, we already know that nicotine and alcohol use damage the developing brain. We look forward to collaborating with other agencies to develop policies to protect our youth from e-cigarettes and underage drinking. It is important that we work together because ultimately we all want to prevent addiction in adulthood,” said Adams.

Visit for a copy of the findings. For help quitting tobacco, visit Parents who want to learn about prevention of underage drinking may visit

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Media Contacts:
Brittany Karzen, UDOH
714-267-3679 (m)
Susannah Burt, DHS
801-538-4388 (o) 801-920-7448 (m)