Kids Are Trying E-Cigarettes. Everybody Panic!


planetc1 / photo on flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report today showing that e-cigarette use is up among the youths.

The flashiest result:

The percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.

The press release highlights findings that "the percentage of high school students who reported ever using an e-cigarette rose from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10.0 percent in 2012," and that "high school students using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days rose from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent." 

The data were collected in the same way that the CDC gathers info about youth smoking—a pencil-and-paper questionnaire filled out at school—but there's crucial missing information. 

The CDC (in its delightfully named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) refers to use of cigarettes or e-cigarettes in the last 30 days as "current" use, which makes it sound like these kids are regular users. But there's a reason you don't see kids flashing their e-cigs on every street corner and constantly popping in to 7-11 to buy new cartridges of chocolate-flavored nicotine: Those figures are capturing a lot of teen experimentation, not necessarily addiction. 

With less than 3 percent of kids copping to vaping in the last 30 days, it's safe to assume that the daily use figure is vanishingly small. (The CDC's press office says they did not ask questions about daily use in the survey.)

Which makes this quote from CDC Director Tom Frieden sound a little hysterical:

"The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling….Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes."

The news that about 3 percent of teens took a puff from an e-cigarette this month is not exactly a harbinger of the return of the days of smoke-filled rooms, twitchy cigarette cravings, and rampant lung cancer.

E-cigarettes do deliver nicotine. Using an e-cigarette also looks and feels like smoking a traditional cigarette, which is why lots of folks who are trying to quit smoking prefer them to gum or patches. But that's about all they deliver, which makes them much, much safer than conventional cigs, where combustible carcinogens of all types get sucked down alongside the nicotine. E-cigs pose no known risk to bystanders (though many more studies are currently underway), since the vapor is mostly water with only the smallest trace amounts of nicotine and flavor solvent.  

While detractors point out that the solvent, propylene glycol, is chemically similar to a component of  antifreeze, that scary comparison is misleading: The substance is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in AIDS medicines, eye drops, nasal spray, and as a food additive. The stuff is in Robitussin Children's Cough & Cold medicines, for crying out loud. It's also, by the by, present in traditional cigarettes.

NEXT: 14-Year-Old Tenth Murder Victim in Ten Days in Newark

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  1. Oh NOES! It will make them…will make them….um….

    What will it lead to? Fun happy nicotine times?

  2. The only logical next step is meth vending machines in high schools.

    1. Keep the kids awake in class – Meth for Math.

    2. But then Adderall sales would collapse and Pfizer and the docs who get to charge $50 every 90 days to rewrite the script are screwed. You’re literally crashing the economiez!!

      1. My wife, who I’m about 90% sure has ADD, tried to get assessed. It would have cost $1000 just to get the processed started to get an Adderall prescription, with no guarantee that she would actually get it, so she’s considering getting addicted to e-cigs instead. Perverse incentives are AWESOME!

        1. Whoa. Have her get referred through her GP or GYN and see if the insurance doesn’t cover most of that.

          1. If, of course, she has insurance.

      2. You hit the nail on the head. Nicotine helps people to focus. Kids don’t like tomatoes, eggplants, hot red peppers & other plants with nicotine. Except French fries. But, I’m sure all the nicotine is boiled away. Ketchup? Vinegars probably cancel. They live pizza… But pizza is a no no. They love spaghetti, but canned sauce is a no no. (According to health experts)… So, that leaves … Adderal … Smoking. Thank God for the safer alternatives, like eCigs. They don’t even have to inhale!

  3. It’s because e-cigarettes are associated with that glamorous rebel lifestyle, like utilikilts, Magic: The Gathering, and mopeds. What teenager could resist that?

    1. Those kids loitering around in black dusters, blasting the K-pop in the hybrids? They were led into that subculture by the powerful e-cig marketing machine.

      1. It’s all being pushed by “Big Vapor”.

        1. I thought Big Vapor was John Kerry.

    2. Huh. I associate it with 30-something beer snobs who have discovered they need to exercise to stay fit now. However, I don’t think that expensive beer and tips about avoiding chafing are selling our lifestyle to the kids. Maybe once the fiancee gets the parasite out, we can go to safe nicotine deliveries instead of “our” blanket prohibition.

      1. Yeah, that’s more or less the median user in my experience, but the actual product is so dorky I can’t imagine anyone showing it off, much less luring teenagers in with its ineffable glamor.

  4. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

    Many will, but most won’t. I know smokers who love their new e-cigarettes and wouldn’t be going back to traditional cigarettes. Lots of flavors. I guess you can mix flavors too. You can sneak tokes inside. No cigarette smoke smell. And the costs are about the same.

    1. It’s the cigarettes themselves that are HIGHLY addictive. The ANTZ know this. It’s the MAOI’s, the combo of everything cigarette, that is highly addictive. ECIGS have basically only the nicotine. I don’t see kids raiding tomato gardens, like blood thirsty zombies, getting their nic fixes from nicotine itself. I tried it once, but got caught red handed…

  5. That’s just stupid. E-cigs are still a fairly new product that a lot of people don’t know about. Of course a lot more people of all ages are using them than a year ago.

    1. Shhh Zeb! You’re being logical. Antismokers HATE that!

      Did you know that teens using iPhones have increased by over a BILLION percent in the last 20 years? Really!

      – MJM

  6. OT

    Back when American’s weren’t pussies! Watch the video. Brings back memories of a better time.


    1. Can’t you hold it unil PM links like the rest of us?

      Clearly you need to do more Kegel exercises.

      1. I don’t do the links anymore. There’s like 500 posts. Not worth the time.

        But feel free to repost it if you want. In the 6 minutes it takes to watch the video, you’ll get about 175 comments behind.

    2. I went there once with my parents and couldn’t actually go on anything. Such a shame. It closed down right before I got to high school; that it didn’t stay open for just like 3 more years is one of my sadder memories about adolescence.

      Granted I would have been too much of a pussy to do 3/4 of the attractions, but still.

  7. And does the report include how many kids tried e-cigs and DIDN’T try a traditional cigarette? Without that information, this report is worthless.

    1. It’s also missing the data about how many regular cigarette smokers are switching to the safer e-cigs, you know, the good news.

  8. Or Americans.

  9. There is no bit of good news that government busy-bodies can’t turn into an excuse for widespread panic and greater funding.

  10. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) actually recommends the use of propylene glycol-based antifreeze because it is safer than ethylene glycol should pets accidentally ingest it.

  11. The reason the busybodies are panicing is because there could be anything in those vaporizers and they won’t be able to control it. You can get e-joints with hash oil that gets vaped. How long before someone figures out a way to smoke meth, crack, heroin, etc in them?

  12. “High school students” and “kids” are not a set with full overlap.

    How many of them were 18, and legal adults who just went and bought one?

    (Likewise, “doubling” to 3% is not scary; if it went from 1 in the country to 10, as it did at some point, it “increased ten times”, but equally not scary.

    Total amount matters more than rate of change, when the percentage is small.

    Screw the CDC.)

  13. “With less than 3 percent of kids copping to vaping in the last 30 days, it’s safe to assume that the daily use figure is vanishingly small. (The CDC’s press office says they did not ask questions about daily use in the survey.)”

    Very well caught and stated. Clearly the decision not to ask that question was not an accidental oversight. It was a conscious, deliberately plotted omission, designed specifically in order to promote a predetermined negative message despite whatever the facts might be. Whoever designed/wrote/approved that survey should be fired and prosecuted for conscious misuse of public funding to promote a harmful political goal. (Unless of course they simply want to cop a plea to being totally incompetent… and thus only subject to firing.)

    – MJM

  14. What is Risk?

    By the current Public Health application, It is self hypnosis for mass media marketing.

    Risk assessment is a measure of emotions, whereas harm assessments measure physical harms. Risk assessment therefore, when it’s small group statistical findings, are extrapolated across larger populations, thereafter fortuitously presented in a harms perspective, [“Causes x” or “so many will die” etc.] This constitutes a self perpetuation growth, of future risk assessments. Therefore Risk exists for Politics with a net value in What they can make you believe, with belief, fear or risk, presented in ever more frightening, graduated process cycles.

    At some point in the exaggerations process, people start to hear things that don’t coincide with logic or even common sense. How is tobacco smoke so much more deadly than the smoke from a fire log? It defies biological credibility, but there it is. Grown from nothing but speculation, it has now been stated to be more deadly than any toxic substance or carcinogen ever encountered in our universe. with “no safe levels of exposure”. When does the deception fail to deceive? Outdoor bans are starting to awaken many, just as third hand smoke gave them a clue.

  15. The physiological activity in the brain that you describe loosely as addiction, [some say love] is the same response someone experiences, when smelling baked goods enriched with Niacin. Should we restrict a child from going anywhere near a donut shop which might initiate a love [addiction] of the same feeling?

    Government has no place in regulating risk [fear] because no government no matter how wealthy will ever be able to sustain conformity in “protections” against risk. We have acceptable levels of risk for entirely sound and insightful reasons. Taking away that intelligence and foresight, leaves us in a state of chaos where lawmaking or medicine will always be a matter of reactive emotions and never proof, as unethical “science” by it’s new definitions. At the end of the day it is the people who will be forced to fund those “protections” and in time the people who are becoming bankrupted, in the act of funding governments taken over by this insanity, who will have the last say.

  16. Warning to all Parents!! If your child suddenly becomes obsessed with growing their own vegetables, such as tomatos, potatos, red peppers, eggplants… Call the police!!!! They are growing nicotine for their habit. This must be stopped!! Nicotine has been proven to cause FOCUS, enabling them to see through the BS our government shovels them. Nicotine has also been proven to offset ALZHEIMERS disease!!! This means, your GRANDPARENTS will KNOW you are signing into law ordinances that will EVICT THEM FROM their own HOMES!! How will you ever get your inheritance guilt free if they look you in the eye? They must be denied the right to not catch Alzheimer’s!! Or Parkinson’s disease. This has been a friendly community reminder. Buckle up, wear your helmet, and stay away from potatoes.

  17. electronic cigarette here to take advantage of the economic

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