CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — More than a third of West Virginia high school students vape, according to a health department report released Thursday that says youth e-cigarette use in the state is outpacing the rest of the country.

The study, titled “ West Virginia Youth and Vaping: A Dangerous Combination,” labels vaping among young people in the state as an “epidemic.”

Nearly 36% of high school students report they currently use e-cigarettes, about 8% percent higher than the national rate, the report said. More than one in six West Virginia middle school students are also vaping, about 5% higher than the national figure.

An estimated 4,200 West Virginians die from tobacco-related diseases annually, according to the report. The rising use of e-cigarettes among youth presents yet another problem.

“Youth vaping has created a new addiction for West Virginia’s next generation with the potential to impair, if not cripple, West Virginia’s future health and economy,” the report said.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has proposed a multipronged strategy to combat the rise in vaping. The report recommends raising the tax on vaping products, requiring warnings on vaping products and having more tobacco prevention initiatives in schools.

The report dropped as boards of health in Cabell and Kanawha counties this month banned the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces.

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