While their own summation is less than favorable, the data clearly indicates that vaping is not harming tobacco control efforts
Teenage vaping has been an issue for as long as parents have been aware of the relatively new technology. Critics feel that accepting vaping for its harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits would indirectly lead to a slowing or even reversal of declining teenage smoking rates. Those who support the value of vaping say that these concerns are anecdotal and simply do not have the peer-reviewed evidence to back them up.
Now a new report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is making this already complicated topic even more complex. Their analysis of the data indicates to them that vaping is potentially serving as a gateway to smoking. The trouble is that the numbers themselves seem to indicate that vaping is not harming tobacco control efforts. So while the media is sure to only cover what the CDC decided to report, the full picture tells a much more interesting story.
New CDC Report
The CDC report, called Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students – United States, 2011-2017, attempts to answer questions about how the rise of vaping has affected the youth. The representative survey of nearly 140,000 students across the US found that while tobacco use had continued to drop over the course of the study, vaping has become the most popular “tobacco” product used by students. Between 2011-2017 the overall rate of tobacco product usage dropped from 24.2% of high schoolers and 7.5% of middle school students to 19.6% and 5.6% respectively. According to the researchers, 11.7% out of the 19.6% of high school students who said they used tobacco products primarily vaped. This trend was also noted in middle schoolers, with 3.3% of the 5.6% using vaporizers.
The CDC used these results to paint a picture that teenage vaping is the newest public health crisis, one that requires stricter regulations on vapers and vaping businesses. They believe that these adolescent vapers could ultimately become full-blown smokers once they grow tired of e-cigarettes. This gateway effect has been well reported, but very little evidence proving the connection exists. While the CDC chooses to focus on the potentially harmful portions of vaping, it’s easy to see why these figures actually indicate that we’re on the right track.
The same data used by the CDC to sell teenage vaping as a growing problem could be used to prove that the smoking epidemic is being mitigated thanks to vaping. For example, the researchers noted that vaping was now the most popular “tobacco” product used by students, but that doesn’t take into account all of the students who had already been smoking before picking up a vaporizer. In this light, it seems more likely the rate is so high because a large percentage of teens who had, or would have become, traditional smokers are instead using something proven to be at least 95% safer than cigarettes. This is supported by the CDC study findings on teenage smoking. The researchers found that the rate of teens who smoke cigarettes had dropped from 15.8% among high schoolers and 4.3% among middle schoolers to only 7.6% and 2.1% respectively. These particular figures make it evident that while teenage vaping is on the rise, if anything it’s only sped up the decline in adolescent smoking rates.
Making sure that we protect our children should always be one of our primary concerns. But there is plenty of evidence proving that vaping is an extremely useful harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. The fewer people who understand these fantastic benefits, the fewer people who are willing to accept vaping as separate from smoking. Research like this shows that we shouldn’t be grouping vaping and smoking rates into the same categories, as it glosses over potentially significant differences. Ultimately we must support well-designed research and rebuke poorly constructed or biased studies if we genuinely want to work toward a smoke-free world. While vaping is not 100% harmless, it does offer many smokers a new and effective way to end their dependence on smoking once and for all.
Do you believe that teen smoking rates are negatively affected by vaping? How can we help more people understand the differences between vaping and smoking? What’s the best way to get the general public to accept vaping as a smoking cessation tool? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.
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