As ridiculous as it sounds to anyone who vapes, critics have continued to spark fear by warning that vaping could ultimately lead to higher smoking rates. But in a newly released report issued by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students – United States, 2011-2016”, e-cigarettes are finally exonerated from the unsubstantiated claim that vaping is a gateway to tobacco for the youth of America. Hopefully health officials worried about the booming popularity of vaping products among young people and the potential for increased smoking in the adult population can finally breathe a little easier.
According to the report, in 2016, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product by students with 11.3% of the respondents confirming usage (e-cigs are considered a tobacco product in this report) followed by traditional cigarettes at 8%. Further statistics from the CDC clearly demonstrate that as tobacco use fell over the course of the last five years from 15.8% in 2011 to 8.0% in 2016, e-cigarette use among that same population of teens increased dramatically from 1.5% to a high of 16% in 2015, followed by a decline in 2016 to 11.3%.
The Gateway Theory is DEAD
The initial jump in e-cigarette use elicited concern from the health community; however, when you consider the latest data, if e-cigs were a first step toward traditional cigarettes, the recent drop in electronic cigarette use should have been followed by a subsequent rise in tobacco use. That hasn’t occurred. And it also implies that maybe e-cigarettes aren’t quite as addictive as their toxic counterparts, since e-cig use has dropped substantially within just one short year.
As many of us have been saying all along, it simply defies logic to say that vaping is a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes. It may even be reasonable to theorize that youth experimentation with vaping could prevent a long, addictive tobacco habit that is considerably more dangerous.
Here’s how Dr. Michael Siegel, professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and expert on smoking and electronic cigarettes, sees the results:
The rate of decline in youth smoking is unprecedented. This despite the rapid rise in e-cigarette experimentation. 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.
The drop in e-cigarette use is also reassuring because it suggests that vaping is largely a social phenomenon that involves experimentation and that the addictive potential of these products is quite low. It also suggests that the popularity of youth vaping has peaked and that concerns about vaping taking over and leading to nicotine addiction among a huge proportion of youth are not warranted.
Largely Ignored By The Media
Rather than pointing out the errors in their previous misguided reporting, the major news media has largely ignored this report. And those that have have picked up the story have focused primarily on the reduced vaping rates. As a NY Post headline puts it, “teens no longer think vaping is cool.”
I guess we shouldn’t expect a recant by the “so-called” experts, but it’s pretty frustrating to see so much negative attention constantly being paid to electronic cigarettes. Rather than pointing out the positives, e-cigarettes are still widely considered “unsafe”… and now they’re being painted as “uncool” too.
No matter what side of the electronic cigarette debate you’re on, when it comes to the youth of America, the recent numbers are undoubtedly positive. Only time will tell if the trend continues, but it’s safe to say that the entire vaping community is THRILLED that less teens are vaping! The decision to vape is ultimately a decision that should be made by mature adults who can access the risks and advantages. With that being said, the risks are significantly lower than smoking and that CANNOT (AND SHOULD NOT) BE OVERLOOKED.