In 2015 a Yale electronic cigarette study found that teen smoking rates increased in areas where e-cig sales to minors were banned. Last week a Canadian e-cigarette study from the University of Victoria concluded that in areas where vaping is more heavily restricted teen smoking rates increase. We now have another electronic cigarette study that has resulted in a similar conclusion. Researchers from Princeton and Cornell University have potentially linked vaping age bans to increased smoking rates in teens including pregnant teens.
The Princeton University electronic cigarette study has found that banning vaping in an area may be linked to an increase in teen smoking and that specifically includes pregnant teens. And the studies pile up showing that e-cig bans increase teen smoking rates, should we be reconsidering vaping age limits? That’s an uncomfortable conversation because everyone in the vaping community agrees that there should be age restrictions. Should we be considering another age like 16? The last thing we want is to see teen smoking rates increase again because vaping is made more inaccessible. This is not an easy issue to solve but we should consider what the evidence is telling us. Let’s look at the Princeton Cornell e-cig study.
Ecig Age Limits May Increase Smoking In Pregnant Teens
The Princeton Cornell study was published at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study tracked more than 500,000 births to teen mothers in the United States. That is mothers that gave birth before their 18th birthday. Here is the truly astonishing number. The research showed a 19.2% increase in teen smoking among pregnant mothers who live in an area where e-cig age limits have been enacted. The smoking rate increase among underage teenage expectant mothers is 13.8%. Given these stark increases in teen smoking in pregnant teens, it would seem that making e-cigs less accessible only drives teen back to tobacco.
“Traditional cigarette use typically declines during pregnancy, but our results show that laws limiting access to e-cigarettes actually slows down this decline, presumably because women are prevented from switching to e-cigarettes,” said study co-author Janet M. Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs and chair of the Department of Economics at Princeton. “The figures suggest that pregnant women have an especially high demand for smoking cessation products early in their pregnancies.”
Currie went on to say “The fact that pregnant teens use e-cigarettes where available may reflect the difficulty many pregnant teens face when trying to quit smoking, and the fact that few substitute products are available. Pregnancy provides a unique window when women are open to guidance about resources and products available to help them quit smoking.”
Youngest Teen Most Impacted
The data shows that vaping age restrictions impact the youngest pregnant teens the most. In the wake of the implementation of electronic cigarette restrictions, affected pregnant teens smoked a half cigarette per day on average. 13.7% smoked in the first trimester. 12.4% smoked in the second trimester and 11.1% smoked in the third trimester. The smoking rates were higher in states with e-cig age laws vs those without them.
Implications For Vaping
The more and more of this evidence that we see draws us more to the possible conclusion that teen smoking rates are at all time lows because of vaping. Such a conclusion is not popular and in fact will get you angry glares from policy makers and tobacco control groups. They want the declines in teen smoking to be credited to their efforts for regulations, messaging and taxes. If you suggest that e-cigs are the reason for the declines in teen smoking they take it almost as a personal affront.Is this resentment part of the reason they keep pushing e-cig gateway theories? Possibly.
The question is that as the evidence keep mounting, how long can policy makers and tobacco control groups continue to ignore it? How long will they keep funding studies designed to create the opposite result? We can hope that the mounting evidence will finally start hitting home with regulators and special interest groups. So for a moment, let’s speculate that this indeed happens. What if tomorrow their was a consensus agreement that vaping assists in smoking cessation and harm reduction?
If there was total agreement that vaping reduces smoking and is less harmful than tobacco, we still would like to do everything we can to deter teens, especially expectant mothers, from vaping. Nicotine during pregnancy should be avoided. At the same time we do not want to make vaping so inaccessible it drives teens back to smoking. What type of age restriction regulations would serve the greatest good in this scenario?