Published on September 20th, 2016 | by Jimmy Hafrey
There’s a new survey out and it obliterates the long-held notion that adolescents who vape will go on to smoke traditional cigarettes.
The website Reason published an article earlier this week that discusses, in length, the idea held by the CDC and other anti-smoking advocates that adolescents who have tried vaping will eventually try smoking cigarettes. It has gone so far that the director of the CDC, Thomas Frieden, issued a warning during the National Health Research Forum in 2013 to that effect.
Some vapers are confused by the CDC’s hostility towards vaping, considering how many studies have been done to show that using e-liquids can curb smoking. Vaping is currently recognized by Public Health England and other governments to be a successful smoking cessation method. And in America, vaping is a booming industry that is expected to reach a billion dollars in sales this year.
So why all the hostility?
It turns out that Frieden and other anti-vaping advocates have been using one particular statistic incorrectly. This is the statistic of the percentage of teenagers that have reported vaping, a number which has grown drastically in the last five years. If consumers were to look at that statistic alone, it might seem alarming. So alarming, in fact, that the CDC and the FDA seem to parade it whenever questions are raised about the regulation of vaping and the misinformation campaign about this life-saving smoking cessation method.
Fortunately for vapers, this statistic is a generalized one and warranted further study.
According to the Monitoring the Future Study, or the MTF, the statistic grossly overstates vaping consumption by the American youth. The study in which the statistic was first found did not categorize actual vaping usage by teenagers. This means that teens were not asked how many of them just experimented with vaping and how many used vaping on a daily basis.
The previous study also neglected to ask those who vaped if they had used an e-liquid that had nicotine in it.
The MTF study focused on students in the eighth, tenth, and 12th grades. It found that high school students who don’t currently smoke are very unlikely to even use vaping devices, and the likeliness of these students to vape regularly was rare. Of those teenagers that never smoked that did try vaping, 60 percent of them used it on just one or two days and less than one percent of them vaped 20 or more days in the month the study focused on.
The findings of this study are quite similar to the study conducted of teenagers in Wales, of which only one and a half percent of those surveyed reported using vaping devices more than once a month, and almost all of these monthly vapers regularly smoked. This shows that students who already smoke are more inclined to try vaping and those that have never smoked, deemed never-smokers within the studies, were less inclined to try vaping.
What may even be more surprising to non-vapers is that when teenagers vape, it is usually done with a nicotine-free e-liquid. A study conducted in 2014 on Connecticut teenagers found that most of the never-smoking participants only vaped with flavor and no nicotine.
This is further highlighted by a review of the MTF study by Richard Miech, who works for the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, where the study was conducted. He wrote in a report that was published in Tobacco Control that almost two-thirds of all students surveyed had used flavor-only juice, with only about 20 percent of all students trying an e-liquid that had nicotine.
This survey puts a serious dent into the idea that vaping among adolescents ought to be counted as tobacco use. Because the majority of students don’t use nicotine in their e-juice, the idea that they are counted among those that do use tobacco is astounding. In fact, ignoring which students use nicotine-free flavor doubles tobacco use among 12th graders and triples it amongst tenth- and eighth-graders.
This is how the CDC arrived at the conclusion that tobacco use amongst adolescents had jumped between 100 and 200 percent.
However, it’s more plausible to think of vape use by adolescents the way Miech and his team do: ”If vaporiser users are considered nicotine users only if they last vaped nicotine in the last 30 days, then national estimates of nicotine prevalence increase by a much smaller percentage of 23–38 percent across the three grades.”
It’s also more plausible to believe that students who do vape with nicotine would prefer to stick with vaping instead of cigarettes. This is because cigarettes do not come with flavoring and are more toxic than vaping.
It’s still a small percentage of students who are vaping that will develop a habit. In fact, according to the MTF study, only 0.3 percent of nonsmokers are vaping nicotine on enough of a daily basis to develop a long-term dependency on the substance.
The most important piece of information to take from this survey is the fact that 2014, which was preceded by three years of an explosion of vaping by adolescents, showed the largest annual decline in smoking in the four decades the survey has been taking place. This percentage is the one that matters because it proves that vaping is saving lives.
Here’s hoping that the CDC realizes its mistake and corrects their current stance on vaping. Who knows? The FDA may also have a change of heart.