Teen Smoking Rates Plummet As Vaping Grows In Popularity

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The number of American teens who smoke continues to drop at a historic pace, according to newly released federal data showing vaping is now more popular than using tobacco.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released the 2017 results of the annual Monitoring the Future Survey on Wednesday, showing reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to only 4.2 percent this year, down from 24.6 percent in 1997. Vapor products meanwhile appear to be rising in popularity among teens, with nearly 28 percent of teens admitting to trying a vape device within the previous year of the survey, reports The New York Times.

Officials are focusing on the increase in vaping, which they say may lead teens into nicotine addiction and future tobacco use. The results are more complex however, with many students using vapes for marijuana, which function differently than a device delivering nicotine. More than 50 percent of students who admitted vaping in the previous year said they only used flavors that did not contain nicotine. Only 11 percent of 12th graders reported vaping nicotine in the survey.

“We’re impressed by the improvement in substance use by all teenagers,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, according to The New York Times. “We don’t yet know about the health problems in vaping.”

Electronic cigarettes reduce harm caused by cigarettes to the user by up to 95 percent because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals and toxins from smoking are released through combustion.

Scientists at the University of Catania in Italy recently conducted a three-year study investigating the effects of regular vaping on the body of the user, finding “no evidence of health concerns associated with long-term use of e-cigarettes” on blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide and exhaled carbon monoxide.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes; namely, that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit across the country.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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