Teen Smoking May Be Declining, but Vaping Has Risen Considerably, According to New Report
A new federal study has revealed that electronic cigarette use — commonly called vaping — is increasing among children and teens. The implications of the results are being met with mixed reactions among experts.
While e-cigarette use has increased, however, daily cigarette smoking has decreased among all school grades when compared to five years ago. The report found that the number of eighth graders smoking decreased from 2.7% to 1.4%; for 10th graders, the number fell from 6.3% to 3.2%.
High school seniors saw some of the most dramatic decreases in that time, from 11.2% smoking daily five years ago to 8.5% last year — and now down to 6.7% this year.
But one set of numbers is going up: the percentage of teens who have tried e-cigarettes.
The same survey discovered that 17% of high school seniors used an e-cigarette in the last month; only 13.6% have smoked a tobacco cigarette.
Meanwhile, 16% of 10th graders reported using e-cigs while only 7% smoked cigarettes in the last month, and while just 4% of eighth graders had smoked a cigarette, more than double (8.7%) had used an e-cig in that same time.
Although e-cigs were technically invented in the 1960s, they didn’t become popular until about a decade ago. And that popularity, which took off in 2007, coincides with the gradual decreases in smoking among both teens and adults.
Their usage among former smokers has risen by the millions in recent years, but vaping has also caught on among the under-18 set, too, despite e-cigarette sales to minors being illegal in most states.
But the health effects of vaping are still widely debated. In a chicken vs. egg-style debate, the Journal of the American Medical Association has argued that even though smoking is often replaced by vaping, some who try vaping first could begin using tobacco later. Earlier this year, the organization claimed that “e-cigarette use is aggravating rather than ameliorating the tobacco epidemic among youths.”
Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D., from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, commented that the data from the study is concerning. “It would be a tragedy if this product undid some of the great progress made to date in reducing cigarette smoking by teens,” he said in the original study.
But from an economic standpoint, Tim Worstall, writing for Forbes, said that vaping is “the most successful smoking cessation project any one has as yet invented,” with no other product halving teen smoking rates in just five years. This, he said, “means that we really shouldn’t be putting roadblocks in front of further adoption of the technology.”