AKRON, Ohio — The number of kids vaping in Summit County is evidence of a growing epidemic, according to Summit County health officials.
The Summit County Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by Case Western Reserve University on behalf of Summit County Public Health, surveyed about 18,000 middle and high school students.
It revealed that 42 percent of high school students have tried an e-cigarette, and of those students, nearly 11 percent tried the product at the age of 12 or younger.
The study also found that 16 percent of middle school students have vaped at least once.
"We're seeing as young as 11-years-old or younger on the survey when they first start using e-cigarettes," according to Cory Kendrick, the policy and legislative affairs manager for Summit County Public Health.
Current vaping use is estimated at 25 percent among Summit County High School students.
E-cigarette use is significantly higher in suburban schools versus Akron schools.
For example, the survey indicates 36.1 percent of Akron student have tried vaping by their senior year. In the suburbs, that jumps to 57.2 percent.
Within the report is good news that fewer high school students are using alcohol and smoking cigarettes compared to 2013, when the survey was last conducted.
Kendrick believes many of the kids who participated in the most recent survey have the misconception that vaping is a safer option.
"It's not a safer option. More and more research is coming out just how dangerous e-cigarettes are, the carcinogens they contain. There are new studies showing they actually have a bio toxin as as well as a carcinogenic chemical," he said.
Myriam Rosser, a junior at North High School in Akron, said vaping among kids is a serious problem.
"Not only do they have the peer pressure, but they also have the effects of the actual vaping and people don't realize that you are putting a lot of crazy things into your body," she said. "That's nothing to be proud of really."
Another concern to come out of the study was a 35.4 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections among teens between the ages of 15 and 19.
Kendrick said a higher percentage of students reported having unprotected sex compared to 2013.