Youth Smoking Declined By 50% When Vaping Increased
CHICAGO, IL — The CDC just released a study that showed a recent decline in vaping among teens. Mass media jumped on this to praise the downfall of evil e-cigarettes, but they missed some important points. Sure, it’s a positive thing that fewer teens are smoking. Most reports have missed, however, the fact that smoking fell dramatically among teens during the time that vaping was on the rise.
Vaping advocate Jacob Sullum cites another recent study by National Youth Tobacco Surveys (NYTS) that shows that while teen e-cigarette use increased by seven times between 2011 and 2016, the rate of teen smoking fell by more than 50%. Dr. Michael Siegel, who works as a public health professor at Boston University, said of the study, “The rate of decline in youth smoking is unprecedented.” He adds, “These data are simply not consistent with the hypothesis that vaping is going to re-normalize smoking and that e-cigarettes are a gateway to youth smoking.”
Of course the CDC’s perspective of the NYT teen smoking study did not look at the overall benefits of a decline in youth smoking. Instead, it stated in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that “Current use of any tobacco product did not change significantly during 2011–2016 among high or middle school students.” Sullum points out that this view only stands if you also view e-cigarettes and e-liquid as tobacco products, a popular argument among the FDA and vaping proponents that is categorically untrue.
The authors of the NYT study themselves stated, “Sustained efforts to implement proven tobacco control policies and strategies are critical to preventing youth use of all tobacco products.” As Sullum notes, this completely misses the point and undermines the study’s proof that vaping significantly contributed to a decline in smoking among teens.
It’s this kind of skewed perspective that fuels scare tactics and regulations that villainize vaping in a way that Sullum and many vaping advocates find dangerous. Sullum’s final statement sums up this ongoing struggle. He writes, “The CDC therefore is endangering public health when it rationalizes those regulations as sensible safeguards against adolescent vaping.”