Fears Over Teen Vaping Unfounded As Youth Smoking Plummets In ‘Public Health Win’

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Fears that electronic cigarettes are causing a youth health crisis appear to be misplaced, according to federal data showing teen vaping and smoking rates are declining.

A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday reveals after a rapid increase in youth vaping between 2011 and 2015, teens are now giving up the habit. The number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016, reports Market Watch.

The findings are in line with the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, which showed a drop in youth vaping in 2016 down to 13 percent of high school students. The CDC survey shows 11.3 percent of high school students used a vaping device in 2016. Overall, the number of teens using any tobacco product also declined from 4.7 million to 3.9 million in 2016.

“Numbers have finally turned in the right direction,” Robin Koval, chief executive officer of the non-profit Truth Initiative, told Market Watch. “This shows a lot of kids were trying them and experimenting, but now that the novelty has worn off, they don’t find them satisfying and we are seeing the trend move in the other direction.”

A CDC report from December showed a large spike in vaping among high school seniors between 2011 and 2015, which alarmists seize on to push greater regulation of the devices. They claim vaping companies deliberately sell flavors that appeal to kids in order to hook them on nicotine early and claim vaping is a gateway for teens to smoking.

Statements from researchers linking e-cigarettes to smoking will often misrepresent what the actual data shows. In one recent example from the Virginia Commonwealth University, researchers studying 3,757 freshmen based their analysis off the metric of vaping “at least one puff in the past six months.”

They claimed the data suggested a gateway effect to smoking, when it actually proved the exact opposite. Only six students from the body of thousands that participated switched from vaping to smoking cigarettes, while 20 students who began the study as smokers transitioned to vaping.

Many health experts argue promoting vaping over traditional tobacco aids public health, while harsh regulations make smokers less likely to use the device to quit.

Major health groups in England, like the Royal College of Physicians, agree that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. They also recommend vaping to patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products.

Roughly 56 percent of all adult smokers in the U.K. made the decision to quit in 2015, the largest number reported since 1974, and health officials give a lot of the credit to vaping.

Public health officials in the U.S. focused on harm reduction argue policymakers could learn a lot from the British approach to tobacco addiction.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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