The dangers of smoking compared to vaping isn’t even an argument anymore, is it? I mean, long ago we’ve established the huge differences between smoke vs vapor. From the lack of smell, to the quick dissipation of vapor, to the enormous cost savings. In short, the smoking vs vaping argument should be a short one. No matter how much the negative talk about electronic cigarettes tries to attack vaping, does anyone really believe people would be better off smoking? No. That should be the same for teens too, but for some it isn’t.
There is this fallacy going around that electronic cigarettes are just another way to get teens hooked on nicotine. The idea is that ecigs can be marketed in ways that traditional tobacco cigarettes can’t, and thus ecig brands are taking advantage of this and hooking in our youth. The most cynical of anti-vaping activists would even say this is a giant plot to make sure a new generation is getting hooked on a product that the tobacco industry is invested in. In fact, the CDPH taxpayer funded group Still Blowing Smoke.org is saying that in a new series of misinformation ads in California. Their lies are easily disproven but facts aren’t the concern of the CDPH, a scary message is. Smoking vs vaping shouldn’t matter if smoking rates are going down, right?
Well, first of all smoking rates have more or less bottomed out. They haven’t been dropping at near the rate they used to. There are still millions of smokers and new ones pick up the habit every day. Unfortunately, many of those who pick it up are teens and that is the age where most smokers start their addiction. After that, it is very hard to break the habit and many will spend years trying to break it. The quit smoking timeline is doable, but they will need help most of the time and that is what seems to be driving the Center for Disease Control (CDC) crazy.
Smoking vs Vaping Matters
According to the CDC, the teen smoking vs teen vaping question is just another way to tell the public that electronic cigarettes are terrible. They like to throw out a lot of data and frame it in a way that will help tell their story about the evils of vaping. We’ve seen this when they claimed vaping leads to smoking in teens and that was easily refuted. Now the newest study is about the popularity of ecigarettes among youth in general, which the CDC sees as more ammunition in it’s inane fight against a tool that has helped millions of smokers.
Now we aren’t here to say that the rise in teen vaping isn’t disconcerting. It is. Nobody wants to see teens pick up a nicotine product because we all know how hard it can become later. But that isn’t the full picture. The latest data from the CDC does show that the percentage of teens vaping has risen from 1.5% in 2011 to a too large 16% in 2015. That’s the bad part. The good part? During the same span, teen smoking has dropped from 16% to 9%. Notice a trend? Is this is a case of how bad vaping is for teens or an argument about smoking vs vaping for our youth?
The answer, as is often the case, is complicated. What it isn’t is a clear-cut way to blame electronic cigarettes for getting teens hooked on nicotine. Judging by the numbers, it certainly appears that a large number of teens who would be reaching for a traditional tobacco cigarette are simply opting for ecigs. Is that ideal? No, ideally they wouldn’t be reaching for anything. Yet we don’t live in a perfect world. In the world we do live in, it certainly seems this is the better alternative.
So when CDC Director Tom Frieden says “E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and use continues to climb,” I don’t see that as a bad thing necessarily. When he says, “Nicotine is an addictive drug and use during adolescence may cause lasting harm to brain development.,” I agree with him too. We should do more to ensure our youth aren’t tempted by any nicotine products and have restricted access even if they are tempted. But when we talk about nicotine we should also talk about teen smoking rates compared to vaping, because that can still make all the difference in the world.