Even though there is a lot of talk lately assuming the opposite, a new CDC (Centers for Disease Control) report indicates a decline in teen smoking, despite of or because of water vapor cigarettes.
Looking at it more closely, we see that it more accurate to deduce the latter reason. While a lot of public figures like to rail against water vapor cigarettes, more commonly known as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, this report flies in the face of all that.
As congressmen huff and puff about the availability of cheap vapor cigarettes and their appeal to minors, the reality is that cigarette smoking is down by historic levels.
Only 15.7% of teens surveyed had tried a cigarette in the past month, the lowest figure we’ve seen since 1991.
The most interesting statistic may be the sudden drop in smoking by teens these past two years. Between 2011 and 2013 teen smoking fell 2.4%, which is more than the drop of the previous eight years combined. Something is definitely happening here, but officials at the CDC are loath to give e-cigarette brands any credit for this trend. They see water vapor cigarettes as just one of the types of cigarettes that can hook teens, instead of seeing how they can help teens that are already smoking or were heading in that direction regardless.
CDC And Vaping
The CDC’s director Tom Frieden personally dislikes vaping has publically stated that he is worried that e-cigarette advertising that could glamorize smoking all over again. When Pushed, Mr. Frieden admits that “stick for stick” vaping is safer than smoking yet he views the e-cig as a threat not an ally.
A recent congressional panel used struck a similar tone, using this issue as a way to lambaste heads of two major e-cigarette brands, NJOY and Blu.
There Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut assaulted the industry, accusingly stating that he has “seen this movie before,” which is to say that “big nicotine comes to children near you and you are using the same kinds of tactics and promotions and ads that were used by big tobacco and proved so effective.” Ouch.
A lot of this does seem like scare tactics and assumptions on the part of these riled up congressmen. They like to point at a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed which concluded that adolescents aged 12 to 17 were exposed to 256% more advertising for water vapor cigarettes from 2011 to 2013.
What we are talking about is a period that saw massive growth in the industry and it is probably that every age group saw a lot more advertising for e-cigarettes. Before 2011 there was very little advertising at all – to anyone! At that point in time most e-cigarette brands were really just getting started and so there were not a lot of advertising dollars to go around.
Using Teens To Attack Vaping Despite Decreasing Smoking Rates
But why talk about things rationally when getting behind an issue emotionally often brings you more limelight and supporters? The easiest thing for elected officials to do in order to secure constituent support is find an issue that they can ask “but what about the children?” and attack it thoroughly.
That seems to be the route many are going here, despite evidence that is either lacking or proving them wrong. The growth in availability of cheap vapor cigarettes can be scary for people and, if you don’t look at the facts and numbers, it is easy to get swept up in the tide of negative media attention.
Take away the inherent negative bias we all have when hearing the term “teen smoking,” and you can see that water vapor cigarettes can actually aid the decline of teen smoking. As much as everyone would like to think that smoking will just go away to the extent that teens will never try cigarettes, that just isn’t the reality. The CDC study backs that up as the recent drop in teen smoking showing that, after years of a fairly stagnantly slight decline, the change goes hand in hand with the rise of e-cigarettes these last few years after years.
Dr. Gil Ross from the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) makes that exact case, noting that nothing has really improved in methods to get people away from cigarettes. None of the efforts currently happening can account for this type of a drop in teen smoking. While he admits he isn’t sure he does say that he has a “suspicion that the increasing use of electronic cigarettes among teens, which has been shown to be mainly among those teens who previously smoked, may be at least part of the explanation.”
So we know teens smoke, but we also know that less of them are doing it at a time when water vapor cigarettes are becoming very popular. Yet, somehow people are trying to convince the public that e-cigarettes are a threat to our children and will increase their nicotine intake. We aren’t buying that here at ECCR, not until we see some real facts behind all the accusations at least. Shouldn’t we be talking about whether or not is vaping is bad for you? Shouldn’t we recognize like they have in Europe that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking? Does the fact that the biggest lobby in the world, the pharmaceutical industry, is anti-vaping explain the regulatory hostility toward vaping in the US as well as the smear campaign? What do you think?